There’s definitely something frightening about the thought that you might never achieve your dreams, but it might hurt even more to get there and then lose it all.
Gold is inspired by a true story and stars Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wells, an extremely passionate and persistent prospector who’s going to do whatever it takes to make the ultimate find. That ambition leads him to risk it all on Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a renowned geologist who supposedly knows where to set up their operation. They partner up, get digging in Indonesia, and struggle through a number of serious setbacks, but ultimately, they achieve the dream and find gold. However, that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing from there.
Yes, Gold is inspired by a true story and yes, you can easily look up the details, but if you’re not aware of what happened prior to seeing the film, I’d highly recommend keeping it that way. Whether we’re talking about being a successful prospector or building a booming food chain like Ray Kroc in The Founder, the path to the top is often inherently fascinating. It’s something that anyone who’s ever hoped to excel in their profession can relate to but at the same time, the paths to achieving the loftiest dreams are often extremely unique. Gold is an interesting story in and of itself, but hitting theaters right after The Founder actually serves it well because it highlights the differences between Ray Kroc’s approach to striking it rich and Kenny’s Wells’ determination to become the best of the best in his field, and it’s those vast and more subtle differences that lead you to appreciate what Kenny goes through to an extent that might not have been possible had it not arrived immediately after The Founder.
Kenny isn’t a bad guy by any means, but his pushy and extremely resolute personality can make him very difficult to work with – and very entertaining to watch. Once you get used to his drastic new look, as one might expect, McConaughey is excellent in the role. He’s got no trouble jumping from overly ambitious prospector to loving husband who truly wants to do right by his wife, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard). That combination also comes in handy when the movie starts to explore his business relationship with Acosta. Kenny operates as though striking gold is priority number one – even over his own health – but he’s also a loyal guy and genuinely cares about and respects his friendship with his new partner.
Kenny’s relationship with Kay certainly could have used a little more screen time to plug up some significant plot holes in their sub-story, but writers Patrick Massett and John Zinman do a much better job with Kenny and Acosta, balancing the progression of their connection as friends and their professional aspirations in a way that makes Gold well worth a second watch. The movie takes a little while to gain momentum, but once Kenny and Acosta’s dig is underway, director Stephen Gaghan does manage to establish an effective build that peaks with one heck of a climax that’ll stick with you well after the movie is over. However, another place the script could have used a little reshaping is a non-linear narrative component Massett and Zinman add that features Toby Kebbell. The scenes play well enough and they wind up serving a bigger purpose, but not in a way that would justify the misdirection throughout the movie.
Where Gold runs into its biggest problems, however, is in the technical department. Pacing is a serious issue in the first act and there are also noticeable flaws with the lighting, editing and shot composition. Simply put, it’s often just not a very pretty picture. The story and performances are strong enough to carry the movie regardless, but dim lighting and unappealing framing may catch your eye every so often. And the same goes for particular scene transitions, too. There’s a small handful that feel more like bandaids than natural transitions from one moment to the next, and usually they involve fades or abrupt cuts between scenes with drastically different tones to the them.
Every part of a film production is vital to creating a successful whole, but Gold highlights the importance of character and story, and the simple fact that if you care enough about the character and are engaged in his or her journey, the movie can still work. McConaughey delivers a wildly dynamic performance that’ll have you bouncing between rooting for and against Kenny all the way through, but most importantly, McConaughey gets you to understand Kenny’s decisions – whether you agree with them or not – and that’s what makes his story impactful and memorable.