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Regardless of any metric you may use, at this moment, Tom Holland is the biggest movie star in the world. SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME has grossed over a BILLION dollars worldwide and is still raking in the cash, and his latest feature UNCHARTED grossed over $40 million in its opening weekend.

Based on the popular video game series, UNCHARTED mixes elements of NATIONAL TREASURE, THE DA VINCI CODE, and a whole lot of INDIANA JONES. Holland plays Nate Drake, a grifting bartender who flips bottles like Tom Cruise and picks pockets like Curly Sue. His rebellious ways are modeled after his brother Sam who has been on the lam since they were young.

Growing up in an orphanage, the brothers, particularly Sam, were obsessed with Magellan and a lost treasure that would change their lives forever. After breaking into a museum in Boston in order to steal Magellan’s map, Sam flees before he can get apprehended, promising Nate that he would come back for him.

Sam never returns, and though this disappearing act instills Nate with a lifetime of abandonment issues and resentment, he occasionally sends his younger brother cryptic postcards from around the world.

Nate crosses paths with friendless treasure hunter Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) who tries to recruit the slick bartender for a mission to track down Magellan’s lost loot. Though Nate is reluctant at first, when he learns that Victor not only knew Sam, but had worked alongside him to search for the treasure, he decides to take a leap of faith and go along for the ride.

The ride will take them all over the world with perils at every turn. They will end up stealing from auction houses, solving puzzles, fighting a bevy of bad guys, and exploring hidden tunnels in hopes of achieving the same glory that the Goonies did decades before. They will go head-to-head with evil kajillionaire Santiago Moncado (the perfectly cast Antonio Bandares), fellow hunters Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), and Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali.) The whole time (in typical buddy flick fashion) they will bicker and belittle, forging a reluctant friendship that will either result in death or riches.

Admittedly, I never played the video games on which this film was based, so I forged my opinions solely upon the product I saw on the screen. What I watched was an entertaining adventure that may not be on the same level as the inspirations it was drawing from, but did enough to justify the price of admission. The playful banter between Holland and Wahlberg worked well enough, and Holland’s natural charm can elevate just about any material. Due to his seamless swagger and amiable sense of humor and spot-on delivery, he makes the perfect leading man for the next generation.

Most of the action sequences have a formulaic familiarity about them, with the exception of the dizzying opening sequence that has been utilized heavily in trailers and plays out in full about halfway through the film. In this scene, Nate finds himself attached to cargo shipment that has been thrown out of a plane, and must reinvent the laws of physics in order to survive. It is blissfully absurd, profoundly impossible, and exactly what was needed in order to make UNCHARTED far less forgettable than it could have been. It, along with its impressive box office debut, may also be just the spark needed to green-light the sequel that is set up in the mid-credits sequence. If there is one thing that has been made abundantly clear in these last couple of months, it is that Tom Holland is certainly capable of carrying a franchise.

(Now playing in theaters)

RUN TIME: 1h 56min
GENRE: Action, Adventure
STARRING: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Bandares
DIRECTOR: Ruben Fleischer
WRITERS: Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway

Brian Miller