Written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman, and directed by Stephen Gaghan, probably best known for the likes of Traffic and Syriana, Gold is set in the 80s and based on the true story of (the fictionally named) Kenny Wells, played by Matthew McConaughey, a prospector who’s down on his luck. When he meets up with Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a geologist who’s also out to better his life, they team up and set off to the jungles of Indonesia in the search for gold.
Although this might sound farfetched as an initial soundbite, mining for gold in different places isn’t at all unusual and in this case Acosta is a man who believes he knows where to find it and Wells is a man who wants to believe. Why does he want to? Because his father, and his father before him, had mining companies that were started from scratch and in the modern era he wants to keep family legacies moving forwards.
Although Gold does take some time to pick up the pace and kick on, switching between the psychological ups and downs of not finding anything and also Wells alcoholism and suffering from Malaria in the Indonesia jungle, it’s always McConaughey that drives the film forwards and brings all the connection. Fully committed to the character, and all the passion of his beliefs, he’s captivating when his heart is part of what he’s creating.
Edgar Ramirez is solid as Acosta but never really goes past a ‘mysterious’ vibe, despite his dealings and friendship that appears to blossom over time. Initially I was a little frustrated with Bryce Dallas Howard being underused but as the narrative progresses, in her co-starring role as Kenny’s wife Kay, but she actually becomes the strongest one in their relationship. As they find gold and the action evolves, she realises that people around Kenny are using him and tells him he should get out of the facade, but he’s consumed by the possibility of success and so she chooses to leave him despite her love, and it’s an central moment in what’s to come.
It’s also at this moment, just as a big deal with a financial company is agreed, that we flip forward to an unknown point in time and Kenny is being interviewed by the FBI regarding what went wrong. This feels a little out of the blue, but it sets the tone for where the rest of the film is heading. Also, from this point, we head back and forth between flashback and the FBI interview as the final third comes to fruition.
Stand-out scenes include a very poignant speech when he wins an award, and Wells self-realisation is offered by McConaughey with deep honesty, and also the honesty revealed in final scenes. His character is so believable that you always get dragged into what you’re watching, even if the overall shape of the film isn’t perfect, he’s giving another top class performance.
Scored with an interesting 80s soundtrack from the likes of Orange Juice, New Order, and Joy Division, plus a sterling new track from Iggy Pop, the music layers the scenes and works well throughout, offering a little attachment through lyrics and reflection. Gold is definitely a remarkable and crazy story but it feels like it may have found more tightness with a snappier, faster direction. Due to the ‘true story’ connection, it’s hard to not think of Wolf of Wall Street and what it achieves with similar material. However, there are hidden twists and turns, plus you always feel like something’s going to go wrong all along and does it? Well, you’ll have to watch and see how it goes down.