Saturday 22 April 2023

Gold (2022)

This is an interesting film focusing on survival-against-nature (human and otherwise) set in the outback of Australia somewhere (we think, right-hand drive truck, though accents seem to be American) in the near future. It's a two-man show, pretty much and one of the actors is also the writer/director, Anthony Hayes.

The story starts with an apparent drifter, looking for work, and finds it - but needs Anthony Hayes' character to get him there. A days-on-end drive in a beaten-up, just about working, truck is needed. The drifter is not interested in entering into any dialogue or friendship with the driver and the journey is hard work for both of them. It gets hotter and hotter, the air conditioning in the truck doesn't work properly and you can feel the arid atmosphere in the car, between them, and in the climate they have to endure.

When they make camp for the night, the driver, who seems to be more knowledgeable about survival in these conditions, warns about the wild dogs which will try to attack and eat humans (or anything that is alive), particularly during the night, if they are not vigilant. Fires are set while they sleep to keep the risk at bay.

Someway into the journey, whilst the driver is tinkering with the truck, our drifter finds a huge lump of yellow-looking metal in the ground. The driver confirms that it is, indeed, gold. They do a jig! The drifter won't need a job after all! Trouble is that it's so huge, they can't shift it out of the ground, try as they do by digging, dragging and using the truck's power to try and wrench it out. None of us know how big it is, but clearly it's huge.

They take stock of the situation and decide that one of them needs to stay there to 'guard' their treasure whilst the other goes and gets a digging machine to get it out. The driver says that he is used to these conditions, so he will stay. The drifter disagrees and so they swap roles. The driver goes off for the truck and the drifter stays on guard.

We stay with the drifter throughout the days it ends up taking the driver to get to where he needs to go, get the truck and come back. In the meantime, the drifter is running out of water, food and sandstorms wreck his encampment amongst other difficulties. A series of mini survival adventures. And so that's where the rest of the film is played out. Watching the drifter get sicker and drier and more dehydrated whilst he awaits the return of the driver and truck.

He is far too far from civilisation to change his mind and start off on foot - and even so, the driver assures him that he's coming (via a satellite phone he's left with the drifter). At one point he is approached by a travelling desert woman, or two, and works hard to refuse her help and not reveal the gold or it's location - with traumatic outcomes.

Zac Efron plays the drifter and as time goes on, he looks more and more battered by the climate, flies, dogs and the events which occur. He is made up to look dreadful, but presumably in keeping with how somebody in that situation would end up appearing. Most of the film is actually a one-man show and he pulls it off very well. He's engaging and convincing in what he has been asked to portray.

There are some twists and turns to enjoy in this very capable, if slow-burning (in more than one meaning) thriller. It is slow, with dialogue limited, in order to help the audience get a little feeling of how the experience was for him - so you need to be alright with that. There are tragic events and surprising outcomes with messages about trust, the darker side of human nature, greed (of course) and the price of taking risks with one's life for money. I thought it was well worth sticking with and ended up enjoying it very much. Recommended.

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