Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gold is a good, grim survival movie. It has great cinematography, a good story, and enough intelligence. But it is not for everyone’s taste. This is not a movie about sunshine and joy.

The story is lean. It happens in a desert that’s geographically referred to as the East. A man named Virgil (Zac Efron) hires a driver named Keith (Anthony Hayes) to take him to a location called The Compound. A flier in Virgil’s pocket shows the destination to be a mining camp which promises fortunes for its workers. But along the way, they pull over to rest and discover a large chunk of gold that’s deeply fixed into the ground. And since their pick up truck is unable to pull it out, they make an agreement. That one of them will go pick up an excavator while the other stays to watch over the gold.

The movie successfully creates an atmosphere. It uses long takes which allow the desert scenery to be immersive. The horizon is a spectacle of painted sky and dry crusted land. Plus there are implications that describe its world as dystopian which stimulate the imagination. We wonder what kind of dangers lie in the surroundings.

The story has both generic elements and twists. The wild animals are expected but are still fearsome due to their sounds or appearances. And the twists are not too easy to predict even though there aren’t too many possibilities. All the characters have a sustained look of fatigue which makes them tricky to read. Zac Effron as Virgil does a satisfactory job of playing a silent man with a mysterious past. He is covered in dust and dry dirt throughout the movie. The dirt on him might look a bit artificial but it doesn’t distract the story.

As for dialogue, it is wisely kept to a minimum. That’s because the situation is interesting enough without anyone speaking. It raises enough apprehension from only two questions- Will Virgil survive the desert? and who will try and take the gold from him? But the story also raises questions about who can rightfully claim property in a lawless setting. And that’s why Gold, directed by Anthony Hayes, is a an above-average survival movie. It sparks the mind into thinking while also causing fear simultaneously.