Prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) dreams big. Even though it's 1988, a recession is under way, and Wells' mining company (left to him by his father) hasn't struck anything remotely valuable in years. Wells keeps dreaming big, and after recalling a meeting with geologist, Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a man who has has his own dreams about what's under the ground and where to find it, Wells sets out to turn the fortunes of his company around.
Wells skips out on his girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), hocking her jewellery to fly to Indonesia to see Acosta. There Wells convinces Acosta to become his partner and the pair set off into the jungle. Convinced they've found the spot which will make them rich, they begin drilling. Results at first are unpromising. To make matters worse, Wells gets malaria. Then the local workers revolt. Wells and Acosta look to have struck out.
And then they haven't. Positive results from the samples they have drilled spell gold. Lots of gold. Wells returns home a hero. He sets his company up in new offices (they'd been working out of a bar) and then goes around drumming up new investors. They all want in. And Wells gets a taste of money, power and acclaim. Acosta continues sending good news about what he's found and the share price of Wells' company keeps heading skyward. But has Wells finally won?
Inspired by the Bre-X mining scandal of the 1980s and directed by Stephen Gaghan, Gold tells a very American story. Wells is a hustler, a gambler, the man who won't rest until he's rich and famous. But it's not even about the money, it's about success, after years and years of not having success. For Wells, success comes first and everything else - his relationships, his dubious methods, his health - all come second.
A physically transformed Matthew McConaughey (he's balding, rotund and his teeth are crooked) tries his best with Wells - you can see him really trying to sell the whole thing to everyone. Edgar Ramirez's Acosta just comes along for the ride, he's surprisingly nonplussed as the worldly geologist as comfortable in the Borneo jungle as he is in the boardrooms of Wall Street firms. The remaining cast members say and act just exactly how you would expect them to.
There is some wonderful cinematography - the ancient Indonesian jungle is rendered vividly on the big screen. There's also a pretty happening soundtrack. But everything else is a little off. Gold reaches for a lot of themes: the down-on-his-luck hustler trying to make it, the unashamed greed of Wall Street, even corruption in Indonesia. But it's all a bit superficial - everything is glossed over to reach the end. And when the film reaches its crescendo there are a few twists and turns, but not enough else.