According to gold prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), “What made this country great isn’t the tight ass in a suit taking the easy way down; it’s guys like me and Mike who jump.”
In a desperate attempt to keep a fading dream and mining business alive, Kenny calls on a mysterious geologist to revive his plans for a-once-in-a-lifetime gold-mining expedition. Inspired by true events concerning the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal, Stephen Gaghan’s 2016 adventure-drama, Gold, is set against the tropical landscape of the Indonesian jungle. The breathtaking scenery filled with lush canopies of gleaming leaves sets a visual tone that contrasts the scenes shot in corporate America, which are presented in a style comparable to films such as The Big Short (2015) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
Gold strikes a good balance as both a character and plot-driven narrative. Since the story is told from the eyes of Kenny, who represents the relentless pursuit of the rare and extraordinary, the story requires a powerful figure to carry the humanistic integrity of the film and McConaughey appears to be a smart choice to play the lead. Between his powerful presence on screen, and a drastic transformation in the form of a pot belly, receding hairline, and sweaty face, McConaughey manages to pull off a likable character whose obsession with gold offers the audience a chance to explore a story that delves deeper than the accumulation of wealth.
We all know that one ridiculously ambitious person with the ability to convince anyone that the sky is pink – that’s Kenny Wells. Now add a guy like Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) to the picture: a geologist who shares a similar dream, but lacks the financial logistics to make it happen, until a blast from his past unveils himself with an enticing proposal. While both characters are wildly different in terms of characteristics and mannerisms, it’s not entirely impossible to comprehend the nature of their alliance. It takes a talented actor to play alongside McConaughey, and while Ramirez pulls off his peculiar characteristics for the most part, there are a few moments that leave you feeling underwhelmed by his lack of intensity. But the holy trinity of characters wouldn’t be complete without Bryce Dallas Howard who not only plays the role of Kenny’s wife, Kay, but also acts as the symbol of Kenny’s foreshadower. Howard has a powerful on-screen presence that compliments the talents of McConaughey. Where Ramirez’ indifference falls somewhat short at times, Howard excels in her ability to convey emotion in just the right doses, and offers an understated sensibility to the film.
Try not to fall into the trap of assuming this is a typical fable of search and you will find; think of it as a story that reinvents the idea of what it technically means to see your dreams come true. When the whole world moves on, to what extent will two people keep their dreams alive for one another? When McConaughey argues, “It wasn’t about the money, it was about the gold”, he drops a cue on what the film is truly about, and in doing so, casts a light on an unconventional friendship grounded in unshakable faith. What else could lead two grown men to sign a contract on a napkin?
It’s been a great decade for films based on the loopholes of finance, and Gold is no exception. Here is a film that explores the humanity behind economics, the temperamental nature of value, and the perils of one’s own ego. Amidst this infusion of themes is a well-written script with punchy dialogue that McConaughey delivers in that intense McConaughey-ish way of his. You’ll find yourself drawn to the spirit of the film, which is embedded in the heart and soul of these characters. Even when all hope has vanished into the receding horizon, Kenny Wells throws a powerful punch in the face of failure when he declares – “the last card you turn over is the only one that matters.”
Matthew McConaughey shaved his head, gained 45 lbs and wore false teeth to make the character less attractive looking. He said he gained the weight eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer and milk shakes.