McConaughey Shines in “Gold”
Stephen Gaghan’s Gold certainly doesn’t tell a new story but at least it does so in an entertaining manner. Based on the Bre-X Minerals scandal from the 1990’s, the film is propelled by a compelling, manic performance from Matthew McConaughey; his good looks may be suffused by 40 extra pounds, a dental appliance and his shaved head, but his charisma shines forth, giving us a protagonist that, at times may be off-putting, but for whom we can’t help but root for in his obsessive quest for gold.
The head of the Washoe Mining Corporation, Kenny Wells (McConaughey) works tirelessly to convince investors to take a chance on his latest scheme to plumb for gold. His latest endeavor revolves around Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a renowned prospector known for finding big strikes in out of the way places. Samples from his latest find in Indonesia promises untold riches for those willing to take a chance and Wells is eager to go even further. Compelled by a dream he had, in which he says the gold was calling him, he risks all he has and nearly dies of malaria when visiting the site to offer encouragement to Acosta. His gamble pays off as they hit the mother lode, a find estimated in excess of 10,000,000 ounces.
If you’ve seen one strike it rich movie, you know that moral corruption is right around the corner for our hero and Wells proves to be a world class boob where his supportive and lovely girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) is concerned and lets his pride get in the way of taking a $300,000,000 buyout offer, a decision he comes to regret when his bad behavior comes back to haunt him.
Those unfamiliar with the Bre-X case will be in for a major shock once the other shoe drops relating to this scheme and when this bad news is delivered, the film’s pace and sense of mania goes into overdrive, McConaughey matching this hysteria in his impassioned desperate performance. His Wells is a hustler who tells people what they need to hear to keep the wheels of his personal commercial enterprise turning. A larger-than-life character, he doesn’t play just to win, he plays to make history. As such, the potential for great success is always there, as is the possibility of colossal failure. McConaughey makes this modern P.T. Barnum a grandiose figure but he never lets us forget there’s a good man beneath the bluff and bluster and his ability to convey this is the catalyst for this film.
An interesting companion piece to last year’s The Big Short in its portrayal of modern corporate greed, Gold delivers its oft-told moral in an engaging, if somewhat pedestrian manner. In the end, it’s the image of Wells that stays with you, a man whose mantra is “If you sell your dream, what do you have left?” a notion only very few have the guts to live by