Gold (2022) Review: Every now and then cinema audiences are catered with one or two survival dramas set in some sort of dystopia. Not every one of them hits the mark though. Often, films developed under this ‘dystopian’ umbrella fail to avoid the pitfalls and get either too meandering or too frivolous. It is important to grasp the essence of the story the film wants to tell, the nature of the dystopia the film wants to portray. The meditative dystopian world of ‘Stalker’ is radically different from the swashbuckling action-packed dystopia of ‘Mad Max’. The style dictates the story and thus the setting.
‘Gold (2022)’ is neither profound in philosophy nor heavy in actions. However, for all his budgetary limitations, Anthony Hayes, who directed, co-wrote, and acted in the film, does manage to run the middle ground. It is good enough without transcending the boundaries of its genre. Hayes makes the film stick to its simplistic premise, without overtly relying on plot-driven complications for the film’s characters. The conflict in the film is mostly of the ‘man vs nature’ nature. With a touch of ‘man vs man’.
Zac Efron’s unnamed character arrives at an unnamed place. One look at the place is enough to tell the audience the nature of the world the story is about to take place in. It is arid. It is hot. It is definitely a challenging environment that the de-glam, grizzled, and already beleaguered-looking Efron would need to overcome. He meets Hayes’ character, unnamed again. The obvious lack of nomenclature reflects the impending humility of humans in front of the formidable existence of nature.
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Hayes’ character agrees to take Efron on his ride, across the desert, where there is a mine, the apparent destination of the destitute. This destination would seem like the will-o’-the-wisp for our characters. A place of redemption and hope. But before they could reach the place, they strike gold. Literally, as Efron’s character comes across a large lump of the yellow fortune-changing metal. The two unnamed journeymen try to dig the whole thing out, however, their efforts would be thwarted by the immovability of the precious metal in the ditch they found it in. The only option seems to be one of them going to the nearest town and finding the required machinery.
This is where the film starts to take its shape of ‘man vs nature’ conflict, as Efron’s character insists to be left behind with the gold so that he could protect it from unsuspecting but prying eyes; all the while Hayes’ character tries to find the necessary arrangements of a dig of that nature. The environment where Efron needs to survive at least a week is challenging to say the least. Harsh weather, hungry pack of dogs, and the relentless sense of the lonesome in a vast but deserted land.
Like we have seen in stories such as Hemingway’s classic ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, the desired object becomes the adversary, as well as the only companion for Efron’s not-so-old man. There is an undercurrent of the consequences of unchecked greed. The man-vs-man conflict also starts to raise its head as Efron’s character struggles to survive after a couple of days. There is distrust amongst the only two male characters who started off together quite reluctantly. The last act of the film swerves a little towards the fallacies of human nature, as opposed to the struggles of one man against the infallible presence of nature.
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Zac Efron, dirt on his face, with an unappealing gait, churns out a believable performance as the man who copes against all the natural odds. He does most of the ‘lifting’, as his character needed more physical work than emoting a range of emotions. Anthony Hayes delivers a solid supporting act as well. The cinematography by Ross Giardina is something to behold, probably the best thing about this film is how Giardina’s camera made harshness look beautiful.
Unlike the metal, Gold here is not novel; however, it is more than a passable affair.