Has Matthew McConaughey struck it rich

Has Matthew McConaughey struck it rich

Review: Gold

(M) Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard

When you think of mining prospectors, the vision of an old toothless madman panning for gold in the 1800s is what may come to mind. But the long tradition of people who seek to ‘Find gold in them there hills!’ is minimised by Gold‘s Hollywood version of treasure hunters.

Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is a modern embodiment of the mining prospector. Instead of a pick axe, he and his company rely upon modern technologies to find these precious minerals. The means to extract the minerals may have changed, but what has not changed is the need for intuition — and to have a burning desire to dig into the ground and, hopefully, strike it rich. In the 1980s, Wells and geologist Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez) seek to find gold in the jungles of Indonesia. Risking their reputations, relationships, health and every last dollar to their names, they discover what was considered to be one of the largest deposits of golden rock in history. Their mine begins to see the money and the investors come in but, as gold fever reaches its heights, something goes wrong in Indonesia that no one expects.

Based on the true story of the Canadian Bre-X mining incident in 1993, Gold shows that this shining mineral has an ability to cause people to do foolish things for the prospect of getting rich. Director Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) adds a bit of artistic license to the original story, to introduce the world to the speculative and volatile world of mining prospects. It offers a fascinating glimpse into this world of a business that is riddled with manipulation, back-biting and the opportunity for vast amounts of cash at the end of the proverbial rainbow.

Gaghan mines the depths of the talent pool of actors he has assembled, and benefits from  McConaughey’s willingness to embody the sleazy character of Kenny Wells. Like his award winning role in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey fully commits to the physical manifestation of this alcoholic, but driven prospector. Even with the additional weight and the shaved head, he retains the larrikin cheekiness of his Southern charm. His lead performance is well supported by the intensity of Ramirez and the strong turn delivered by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), who plays Wells’ naive girlfriend. 

Boasting a fascinating story and a vast array of talent, Gold looks to be cinematic gold (not to mention its potential to be a darling of the award season). But like the Bre-X scandal, things are not as they seem.

Gaghan captures the 1980s setting and the mining industry, but fails to find any characters that can retain any appeal with audiences. Kenny Wells seems to remain in one earnest gear and never allows the audience to side with him in achieving his goals. Plus, the partnership between Wells and Acosta never makes sense. Outside of their financial commitment to one another, the loyalty between these two driven men is hard to believe. This causes some of the story to derail, because their bond is key for the acceptance of the narrative.

The tension of the mining operation, boardroom theatrics and corrupt governments provide the potential drama and allure of this world, but none of it helps to gain the momentum needed to hold the audience’s attention. Even with a compelling story and capable cast which gives needed sparkle to Gold, the end result is a mining expedition that comes up empty.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What is the value of teamwork? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:20-25)
    2. Does the Bible say anything about risk taking? (Proverbs 3:5, Mark 8:36)
    3. Does God care about my dreams? (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 16:3)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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