A desert survival story worth getting lost in
Gold. It can make a man go a little stir crazy in his pursuit of it. We have already learned this from movies past and it’s also a lesson that can be gained from this future-set movie that is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
In this one, Zac Efron stars as a man who is on his way to a distant compound where he has been promised some kind of employment. We don’t know much about the character Efron is playing but it’s clear from the state of his appearance that his life hasn’t been an easy one. We don’t know his name – he is listed as Man One – and we don’t quite know where he has travelled from after we first meet him on the back of a train.
On his arrival at a desert outpost, he meets up with the driver who will take him to the compound. We don’t know this guy’s name either as he is only listed as Man Two in the movie’s credits. As they set off on their journey, there is a sense of unease between them, with stilted conversations and long silences.
Their road trip is halted when the car breaks down in the middle of the desert highway. This is far from ideal as the temperature is sweltering hot and there doesn’t seem to be a water hole for miles. Not that these inconveniences bother them for long, however, as they soon spot something glittering in the sand. It’s a huge chunk of gold but as much of it is buried within the ground, the men are in a bit of a dilemma.
After a brief discussion, it is agreed that Man One should stay behind with the prize while Man Two journeys to get an excavator. Before he leaves, Man Two warns Man One to stay on his guard against anybody who might arrive to steal the gold. He also warns him of another threat – the desolation and loneliness that could make Man One lose his mind if he doesn’t take steps to keep himself sane.
After giving these warnings, Man Two heads out in his now-repaired vehicle, leaving Man One alone with nothing but wild dogs, a scorpion, and his own frazzled thoughts to keep him company.
Gone are Efron’s dazzling good looks in this movie. He is dirty, unshaven, and battle-scarred by whatever war happened outside of this movie’s narrative. As his character sits and waits for his travelling companion, his face also becomes blistered because of the sheer heat of the sun. The actor gives a strong performance as the man who mentally unravels and while we don’t know much about him, it is easy to feel sympathy for the stranded character.
Eventually, a woman arrives, although it’s possible that she is an illusion rather than an actual person. She taunts Man One as she follows him across the desert and her constant chattering gradually makes him lose both his bearings and his mind. After dealing with her in the only way he knows how, he then has to deal with the threat of a snake, a merciless sandstorm, and the very real possibility that Man Two might not be coming back for him.
It would be wrong to reveal anything more about Man One’s story as it’s for you to find out for yourself. And I recommend that you do tune in to this one, as the movie as a whole is a pretty good one. It’s part ‘one man against the odds’ survival story in the vein of The Martian where Matt Damon found himself alone on Mars and it’s also a parable about greed and what a man will do to hang on to his treasure, despite the odds that are stacked against him.
The desert landscape is suitably dry and desolate, riddled with flies and pieces of wreckage that are the remnants of the war that has seemingly turned the earth into some kind of apocalyptic wasteland. The direction and photography perfectly capture the sense of isolation that Man One feels as he struggles to survive alone in the sand-filled wilderness and they draw us into the character’s plight as we start to become as lost and confused as he does.
Gold is a mostly miserable movie in terms of setting and atmosphere but that shouldn’t deter you from watching it. On the surface, it might look like just another survival story but in its abbreviated tale of psychological distress and human desperation, there is much more to the movie than you might imagine, provided you dig deep for its hidden treasures.
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Verdict - 7/10