TL;DR – Brutal, uncomfortable, and completely compelling.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Stan subscription that viewed this film
Gold Review –
When you are creating a film that wonders into the Survival genre, there are two very different ways you can engage your audience. The first is through shock, a sudden event or trauma like a bear attack. Or you can slowly pull everything away from people like a tide coming in or an approaching winter you are not ready for. Today we look at a film that explores the latter, but instead of the chill of winter, we get the brutal, unrelenting heat of the desert Sun.
So to set the scene, some time, someplace, not far from now, a man is sitting in a train carriage boosting a ride in cargo. Man One (Zac Efron) has the clothes on his back and not much else as he walks out into the desert heat at Greenview Outpost. He is heading to the compound in the restricted Eastern Territories and gets a lift with Man Two (Anthony Hayes) through the inhospitable landscape. Man One goes off to take a leak after the car blows its radiator, which is when he spots something shiny in the desert, a gold nugget.
Many films would have raced to get to the discovery of the titular gold, but not here. Here the film knows wisely to spend the first twenty minutes building this world, the relationships, and the general mood. While the film is not explicit about it initially, you can tell that something has gone terribly wrong with this world. You see it in the set dressing, in the snippets of news from the radio, in the mismatched labels and cars, and the vague mentions of war on the horizon. This gives you the world’s feeling without needing to do a big exposition dump at the start.
This slow reveal also gives us time to become acclimated to the setting, which is just as crucial for setting the mood as the location. The most significant factor in this film is the power of the desert to destroy your body. There is no cover, only the relenting heat that saps your mind, your resolve, and your sanity. All of this is captured thanks to stunning location work from location scout JF Whitewall in the South Australian desert. It captures a hostile bleakness while still being stunning to watch, which is a tricky balance to pull off. You feel the heat, you feel the Sun, and you watch it slowly take everything from Him.
Man One came out here to find a new life and chooses to stay with the gold almost to prove something. You do feel that pain, that isolation, as it slowly takes everything from him. This is all sold two-fold, the first by some fantastic acting by Zac Efron. He is who we spend most of our time with, and because of that, there is no room to hide. You buy every moment of his performance as everything is taken from him one step at a time. The next is from what has to be some of the most extensive dirt makeup I have seen used in a film. Jennifer Lamphee and their team did 100% helped to sell the distress and the world. I also want to shout out Susie Porter & Anthony Hayes who also make every moment on screen memorable. There is more I want to talk about the narrative, around two key moments, but alas, that would be getting into spoilers.
In the end, do we recommend Gold? This is a slower-paced film and a difficult one to watch at times. Which means that I don’t think I could recommend it to everyone. However, the performances and world are entirely on point, so I am sure this will be many people’s jam, and if it sounds like it would be yours, then 100% check it out. If you liked Gold, I would also recommend to you Cargo.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Gold
Directed by – Anthony Hayes
Written by – Anthony Hayes & Polly Smyth
Music by – Antony Partos
Cinematography by – Ross Giardina
Edited by – Sean Lahiff
Production/Distribution Companies – Ingenious Media, Altitude Film Entertainment, Deeper Water Films, Rouge Star Pictures, South Australian Film Corporation, Pump Metal Films, Madman Films & Stan
Starring – Zac Efron, Susie Porter, Anthony Hayes, Akoul Ngot, Thiik Biar & Andreas Sobik with Cayenne, Django & Mia
Rating – Australia: M;