The future doesn’t look especially bright, with any number of ways that humanity can destroy itself. Chief among them is the eradication of our environment, which could, in a frighteningly short time, make the planet uninhabitable. Whether that happens before another global war or the collapse of society for a different reason remains to be seen, but science fiction has offered many ideas of a post-apocalyptic civilization. The latest is Gold, which travels a lonely road as its protagonist comes upon something he believes can change his circumstances in the long run, provided he can hold onto it.
Zac Efron stars as a man in the desert headed to a compound that offers some promise of salvation. According to his driver (Anthony Hayes), the price he has negotiated for transport apparently does not include gas, but he has little choice but to pay given that there is nowhere else to go. When they are forced to stop due to the heat, the man comes upon something he believes to be gold. When the driver verifies that it is real, he goes to collect an excavator, which leaves the man all alone with his thoughts in the brutal heat.
Much of Gold involves Efron’s character standing – or, often, sitting – guard as the sun beats down on him. This is not particularly new territory, and the lack of specificity regarding what brought the world to this place doesn’t make it more interesting. All that matters is what we see since there is no greater context. These two men don’t know if they can trust each other, and would surely act in their own self-interest if given the opportunity. But they have no choice but to rely on the other since anyone else who might come upon them would see them as a threat and try to kill them before they became victims of the same fate themselves.
The characters in Gold do feel as if they live in a world where any comforts of the world we know have long been lost. The faces of the men are scored as if permanently covered with dirt, and one scolds the other at a certain point for using more water than absolutely necessary when he seeks a moment of relief. That only increases as they spend more time in the desert, and even if this film doesn’t feel fresh or invigorating, it does manage to capture the misery of sweltering with absolutely no shelter while awaiting an uncertain future.
Efron is a well-known actor who made it big a decade and a half ago with High School Musical. His career since has included a range of comedy roles and a few dramas. He isn’t given much to work with here but does his best, tapping into the way in which his character has blocked off the rest of the world in his struggle to stay alive. In comparison to the other man, he seems much more willing to trust those he meets, something that many would argue makes him weak and vulnerable to being taken advantage of by more ruthless elements.
Opposite Efron is Hayes, who also serves as writer and director of this project. He represents a much gruffer and more discriminating element, one who has learned the hard way that making friends is of little use in a dystopian world. Even if this story lacks a global perspective on what its world looks like, it does succeed in showcasing two radically different ways of existing. For those who appreciate any opportunity to visit a desolate future, Gold may not offer much in the way of creativity but does manage to offer a picture of what it means to exist in a universe that has largely abandoned society.
Gold opens in theaters beginning Friday, March 11th.