When a movie doesn’t have much going on through the whole thing, it can straddle a line between engrossing and boring. Some do it great, while others… not so much. Of course, this depends on what the audience is there for. This makes it more difficult for movies like Gold to strike the right balance. You’ll either walk away liking it for the bleak overtones, or hating it for being boring.
The backdrop to Gold is kind of hard to describe. It’s a near future, post-apocalyptical movie. Although there’s apparently some sense of society, we just never see it. The whole movie takes place in the Outback of Australia but it is never clear if this is just as it was, or if this is now what has become of all of Australia, it is now like the Outback.
The movie tries to be ambiguous but instead comes off confusing.
Two men meet up at a gas station of sorts. The first is Virgil (Zac Efron) a drifter, who has a flyer for a place called The Compound. Apparently, it’s a place that offers work to some extent and promises to be life-changing. It’s grueling work for long hours and little pay. This set-up is only touched upon and not explored much further.
The other man is Keith, played by Anthony Hayes, who also co-wrote and directed Gold. He’s the driver sent to pick up Virgil for $200.
The two men embark on a long road trip across the Australian outback. When Virgil takes a piss, he finds what looks like gold and starts to uncover it. He calls Keith to look. After some time digging they find a massive nugget of gold. It’s so large, they can’t get it out of the ground.
Naturally, neither trusts the other. Keith comes up with a plan for them to use an excavator to pull out the massive chunk of gold. However, both men seemingly want to stay with the gold while the other goes off to get it. Keith claims it’s best for him to stay with the gold, because he doesn’t believe Virgil can handle the harsh environment alone. After some pushback, Keith agrees to be the one to go, leaving Virgil behind.
After a number of days, Virgil learns that there’s more to worry about in the outback than vicious stray dogs, thirst, hunger, and the harsh heat. Slowly he finds his mind is slipping. He meets a woman passing by (Susie Porter). She starts to ask questions that he doesn’t want to answer. Then again, does she even exist?
I’ve found that Efron is a really good actor over the years. Sure he started out in some teen choice award movies, like the High School Musical series. He’s shown he can do some comedy, even though it’s often based directly on his characters being completely ignorant.
He’s also done some great serious acting as well, in regards to The Paperboy and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The former is a movie I didn’t care for, but I thought Efron was decent in it.
It’s one thing for an actor to take on the lead role and be able to play off other characters and the plot. It’s a whole other thing for an actor to be able to carry the movie almost entirely by themselves. Sure, the environment is its own character, but that doesn’t take away from Efron here. It’s not like Virgil is on some adventure, he’s stranded alone in one spot. Efron does a great job of showing just what a harrowing experience this could be.
Virgil at one point (somehow) breaks off a large chunk of the gold, clearly thinking about ditching the rest. However, he succumbs to the gold still in the ground, willing to suffer damn near anything to keep it.
Gold walks a thin line between boring and interesting and I largely liked what it offered. The backstory could have been cleaned up some and although the environment did seem harsh, it didn’t resonate with me as much as it could have. The saving grace was Zac Efron’s acting throughout.
We see what greed can do to people, not in the most typical of ways. It also shows us what dangerous environments can do to people physically and mentally if stranded long enough. Gold is about 90 minutes but feels twice as long, yet this is not in a bad way. It’s a drag, but it’s meant to be. Movies like this are not supposed to be enjoyed traditionally.