Directed Stephen Gaghan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard
Based loosely on the story of Bre-X Minerals (very loosely as it is set decades earlier in different countries), Gold launches us into a world of wealth and avarice, as people chase after the one metal that has been prized by mankind throughout recorded history.
With his family’s mining company on its last legs (a local bar fulfils the role of an office), Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) sets out on an audacious plan to return them to prosperity. Through graft and moxy, he scrapes together enough capital to fund a desperate Indonesian venture by maverick geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez). The result could turn out to be the largest gold strike of the decade, if they can keep it out of the hands of rival companies and a corrupt regime.
At its best Gold plays like a cross between a Boy’s Own Adventure story and a big sloppy love letter to laissez-faire Capitalism. There’s an infectious energy about it at these points, an inevitable momentum that sweeps audiences along for the ride. It’s a heck of ride too. From the jungles of Indonesia to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing going on in exotic locations.
Yet scratch the surface, and there is also something more happening. As Wells and Acosta scramble to assure their holdings, by making sure they keep an Ace up their sleeve, the worst of business is also revealed. The greed, the corruption, the nepotism, and the sheer naked hedonistic consumption. Gold constantly shifts its perception on the flip of a coin, leaving audiences unsure to intent. Is it a celebration, is it a denouncement, is it a morality play, is it the American Dream? It’s a deliberate ambivalence, and one that ultimately pays off.
Most of this is down to McConaughey. His performance is one that throws ego to the wind. It’s a portrayal that’s sweaty, venal, and crass. Wells is an Id barely kept in check, but also it creates within him that hunger and drive. McConaughey embraces it with gusto, giving it a larger than life energy and dragging it back from the edge of caricature.
Where Gold loses its way, is when it pauses to tell the personal story. When it moves away from the world of high finance, the pace slackens and the energy dulls. Although this arc is eventually rewarded, the love affair between Wells and Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) still feels tacked on, and not as interesting as the events surrounding it.
In general, Gold does have a certain lustre to it, but a tighter reign on the script could have made it really shine.