Anthony Hayes’ directorial debut “Gold” is a survival horror drama. Set in the near future, at an unmentioned place, the film follows two unnamed men as they travel towards their destination but stumble upon a life-changing opportunity on the way. “Gold” is a film of the casual watch category at best, as it tries to talk about the ugliness of human greed but falters in terms of execution, with mostly average acting and narrative unraveling.
In a dystopian “some time, someplace, not far from now,” an unnamed man, played by Zac Efron, arrives at a small outpost by train in the middle of a desert. He intends to go to a place called the Compound and waits for a man who is supposed to arrive to take him there. Soon the second man, played by director Anthony Hayes, arrives with his semi-operational car to take Efron to the Compound. As they travel through barren lands of sand and stone, they get a puncture and are forced to take a break. Efron, who is clearly new to the area, watches with surprise as a wild dog fatally injures another and tries to eat its meat.
The two stop to rest later that night, and it is revealed that Efron has been traveling from the West to reach the Compound, based on an advertisement pamphlet that claims to offer jobs and a great life to those settling in the area. They continue their journey the next morning, and while Hayes sleeps, Efron, who is now driving the car, cranks up the air conditioning, which in turn, breaks down the decrepit car. Frustrated and apologetic, the two try to think of ways to repair the car when they suddenly find a huge chunk of gold stuck inside the ground. They try to get the nugget out of the ground by digging around it, trying to wiggle it out with their hands, and then by trying to pull it out with the help of their car, but none of the techniques work.
Finally, they decide to split up and work together where one would stay with the gold and guard it against dangers while the other travels to the nearest human locality to get hold of an excavator. Efron volunteers to stay back, all by himself amidst the open barren desert with a limited supply of food and water, and protect the gold as well as himself against any other human beings, the wild dogs of the desert, and the elements of nature till his partner returns.
“Gold” is essentially a story of human grit and greed, told with the backdrop of the dystopian future. The two men are symbolic of (probably) the entirety of humanity, who are at first hesitant to truly believe their luck of having found a fortune, and then quickly turn wary and distrustful of the other. A sense of growing disbelief and distrust on each other, which forms the backbone of the film, is easily sensed in the way the two decide who shall wait with the gold and who shall go to fetch the machinery to bring it out. Like every human being (including the audience), who have greed and distrust embedded within, they are quick to realize that both would have to trust the other, and both could cheat the other. Whoever would wait with the gold could meanwhile try to pry it out of the ground and could, if luck favors, be gone with the entire nugget before the other could return.
On the other hand, whoever would go to get the excavator could simply wait it out till the limited resources of the one waiting ran out, and then could have the entire gold for his own self. The film is successful in presenting this idea, which is central to its narrative. The scene of the two dogs trying to kill each other for food is also symbolic of this very human greed.
The spatial setting of the film also becomes important to the narrative, for it could only play out in a desert, and also in a world that it tries to project. The world is almost a mix of various other dystopian worlds that have already been seen in fiction. While the open dusty desert and the make-shift car running through it visually immediately reminds one of ‘Mad Max’, there is a prevailing multi-culture existing in the world of “Gold” much like the worlds of ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Children of Men’, and many other fictions. Every signboard and hoarding are written in multiple languages, including English, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic, suggesting that the world that it tries to show has very few cultural differences based on geography anymore. It is also suggested from radio programs that there are multiple officially recognized currencies, including the US Dollar and the Chinese Yen. There is also an added contemporariness to the world as one radio program talks of the immense increase in the worth of Bitcoin.
However, although the film presents all of this, there is a clear lack of depth to both the narrative as well as the dystopian world that it creates. None of the information passed actually plays any role in the narrative, which itself does not move much further than what it aims to be from beginning to end. Every element seems to be very much on the surface and quite literal, the humans seen in this world are always with literally dirty and dusty rough faces with flies all around, making the filthiness even more literal, which is not a bad thing in itself but it fails to have any depth beyond the surface. With equally mediocre cinematic aesthetics and performances, “Gold” is an average watch with a fairly interesting narrative but nothing beyond.
“Gold” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by debut director Anthony Hayes.