Hollywood heartthrob Matthew McConaughey is almost unrecognisable in Gold – Stephen Gaghan’s first cinematic outing in over a decade – for he’s put on a fair bit of weight, lost most of his hair, and has constant beads of sweat dotted around his greasy forehead. Much like the actor did for Dallas Buyers Club, he again altered his own weight (and health) for the role at hand. Though having now seen the finished product, we’re not really sure it was worth all that effort.
McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, an idealistic prospector, convinced he will one day strike it lucky, and make enough money for himself and partner Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. His juvenile fantasies seem somewhat far-fetched, but his unwavering persistence, and gift of the gab, ensure he’s always worth an outside bet. It’s one that geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) takes, as the pair set off into the uncharted jungles of Indonesia, searching for gold. They dream about nothing more than being triumphant in their endeavour, though any such breakthrough would not necessarily equate to happiness.
Though undoubtedly a flawed endeavour, McConaughey turns in a staggeringly impressive performance to ensure this narrative is easy to follow and adhere to. He just has this presence and charisma unmatched by the majority of actors in this industry, and these are qualities the role requires, as we have to believe in how he can manoeuvre and manipulate, how and why he so often gets his way. It’s also essential we invest in the role, which is easily done where McConaughey is concerned, as despite being flawed, you can’t help but root for him, and whether or not this film works hinges on that very fact. The actor has cited this character as his favourite in this career, though while that’s not necessarily something we’d agree with, it’s still a gloriously complex and absorbing role.
Through Wells we see our story develop in a surprising fashion, as we go from the making-ends-meet, working class lifestyle of the protagonist, slumming it in Indonesia, all the way to Wall Street, where the extravagance and grandiosity makes for a striking juxtaposition. But the narrative does dip dramatically in the middle stages, and while the final act makes for truly compelling viewing, it takes far too long to get there. Suppose it’s good to end on a high note, just a shame you feel as though you’ve really had to work for it.