One such filmmaker was talented Australian director Anthony Hayes (Ten Empty) who decided the best way to make a film during the pandemic was to grab one of Hollywood’s best young talents, Zac Efron (The Paperboy), and head to the Australian outback to film. The result was the brilliant new thriller Gold.
Hayes not only directs Gold but stars alongside Efron. Set in a dystopian future where society has turned on itself, one nameless man (Hayes) gives a drifter (Efron) a lift across the desolate wasteland. However, the two men’s fortunes change when they come across one of the biggest gold nuggets to be found in years.
The catch is that they have no way to dig the nugget out so the Drifter must stay in the outback with the nugget while the nameless man returns to society to grab the equipment to bring the nugget to the surface. The only trouble is the journey is not as easy as it sounds and the Drifter is left with very little water and food in an environment that has taken more than a few lives over the years.
Gold is not the kind of film that every cinema-goer is going to enjoy. It is slow moving and to be honest takes a lot of patience for its audience to sit through. Genre-wise it switches between thriller and survivalist drama with complete ease. Hayes’ screenplay, which he co-wrote with first time screenwriter Polly Smyth, at first generates its suspense by having the audience wonder who is going to turn on who first, and then switches to having the audience worry about the mental and physical health of the Drifter as he battles the elements around him… all while wondering whether or not he has been lured into a life-threatening trap.
Most of this film working rests on the performances of its two leads – Efron and Hayes. Of course many will be sceptical that Efron could pull off such a role as many still like to see him as that kid from High School Musical. They need to move on because Efron has more than shown over the years that he has become one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. From musicals like The Greatest Showman through to comedies like Neighbours and gritty films like We Are Your Friends and The Paperboy, Efron has shown his versatility and skills over the years, but Gold is the film that shows just how great of an actor he has become. Long scenes where he plays a man losing his mind in the harshness of an arid desert are not easy to pull off but here Efron does it in a way that places him amongst cinema’s greats.
Likewise Hayes steps up both in front of and behind the camera. As the Nameless Man, Hayes puts in the same brilliant performance he did in the much under-rated film The Square, and the result is a character that the audience isn’t sure whether to trust or not.
Behind the camera Hayes also shows why he is one of Australia’s best directors. His last film, Ten Empty, was a gripping drama that deserved a lot more attention than it got ‒ and Gold goes that step further. This is the film that should make the cinema world sit up and take notice of Hayes and his film. Pandemic aside, this would not have been an easy film to shoot yet Hayes and his cinematographer, Ross Giardina (Catch the Fair One), make the film look spectacular while maintaining a level of suspense throughout.
If you like your cinema a little on the obscure side, then Gold is well worth a look. Anthony Hayes is a director that Hollywood needs to take notice of and here he leads one of the world’s most versatile actors in one of his best performances.
Gold is currently screening in Phuket and is rated 15.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus