This was a real missed opportunity. The film claims to be inspired by real events, and to a certain extent it is very loosely based on the Bre-X Mining Scandal. A forensic examination of that story (look it up), from the screenwriter of Traffic and Syriana sounds like an amazing film to me. However, every single element of Gold has been fictionalised, and not in a way to make it more thrilling or entertaining.
So we don’t get a blistering true story about the shady and cut-throat world of precious metal mining, which could have been great. Likewise, we don’t get a thrilling adventure yarn about a plucky gold prospector, getting into scrapes in the jungles of Indonesia, which could have been great fun. Instead we get a lengthy and mostly dull vehicle for a paunchy, bald, and bedraggled Matthew McConaughey, serving no purpose other than to remind us what a great actor he is. Newsflash: we didn’t need reminding.
McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a down on his luck commodities prospector, scraping out a hardscrabble existence. The remnants of his father’s company now operate out of a local bar. He is a “hustler, a scrapper, a make it happen motherfucker.” Just like he did for Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey has transformed his physical appearance, piling on the pounds, and shaving his head to portray this character. This time unfortunately, it really wasn’t worth the effort.
Kenny stakes everything he has on one last shot at glory, teaming up with geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) who believes there is gold to be found in the jungles of Indonesia. Sure enough they strike it rich, transforming their little mining company into one of the wealthiest, and most sought after stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. But now everyone wants a piece. Larger mining corporations, enormously wealthy Wall St investors, influential politicians, and the Indonesian government all want a slice of the pie. The film threatens to get interesting at this point, but it is so flatly staged, even McConaughey’s entertaining and wildly over the top performance can’t save it.
As others have quite rightly noted, Gold desperately wanted to be part of the awards conversation this year, and to be considered alongside the likes of The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street, and American Hustle – those ripped from the headlines films about greed, corruption, conmen, and the dark heart of American capitalism. It falls a very long way short.
It’s not all bad however, fans of post-handsome Matthew McConaughey will be delighted by his grimy turn. Director Stephen Gaghan pulls a neat little trick out of the bag with Wells’ voice over, which at the halfway mark takes on a whole new meaning. There’s also a sneakily ambiguous twist, which makes you reconsider everything that’s gone before. Had it been a better film it might make you want to re-watch it.