The movie follows seven German and Austrian-Hungarian immigrants as they travel through the Yukon territory in Alaska in hopes of finding gold. They all have the same goal, but for different reasons. Some are seeking fortune, while others are looking for freedom, escape, and a new start. Wilhelm Laser leads the group, claiming he is experienced in finding gold and knows the way. He hires an older couple, Otto and Maria Dietz, to drive the wagon and cook, and Carl Boehmer, who has experience with horses, to be a packer. Three others join the group: Joseph Rossman is a family man trying to bring his family out of poverty and Gustav Muller is a journalist who hopes to make it big by publishing a first-hand account of the trek. Emily, who seems to be the main protagonist, is a single woman who the others are immediately suspicious and unsure of. All seem to think it will be a rather straightforward and simple trip, and none are ready for the hardship that faces them.
It sounds strange, but the film is reminiscent of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Cannibal! The Musical" (yes, the guys who write South Park). "Gold' doesn't have the same humor at all (or much humor at all...I think I chuckled at one part where Maria tells the others to get used to the food after someone complains its inedible) and there are no song and dance numbers that will stay stuck in your head for years. But, both follow groups hoping to find gold and both groups need to (and fail to) trust the relative strangers they're with. And both end with a much smaller number of adventurers than begin the journey.
I'm really not sure how realistic "Gold" is concerning what people who joined the Yukon gold rush faced, but it is believable. The story is a little dry, and it lacks some character development. Clearly, the audience is meant to be left in the dark about some of the members of the group until later in the film, but after some backgrounds and stories are introduced, not much is explained or used later.
If I didn't watch the movie with the intent to write about it, I might not have made it past the first half hour. The story drags on and there's no real action or conflict until almost halfway through. There are small hints at possible obstacles, but nothing really happens. Once the story starts moving, it's more engaging. I did enjoy Emily's character as an independent and closed-off woman who slowly opens up to one person in the group and eventually shows other sides she's kept hidden. I also liked Rossman, but wish his story had been delved into slightly more.
While I enjoyed "Gold", I wouldn't watch it again. It could be a great teaching tool for what it was like in the gold rush of the late 1890's and to look at human nature and interactions between strangers forced to depend on each other. There are some beautiful shots, and while the electric guitar being the only soundtrack is offputting at first, it does fit the mood of the film. I also liked the ending, which surprises me. In some way it offered closure, but was also somewhat ambiguous, and I'm normally not a fan on ambiguous endings.
If you're looking for a dramatic, realistic, serious, and somewhat dark movie about people trying to find fortune during one of the gold rushes, "Gold" fits the bill. If you want to follow it up with something in the same setting that's silly and will have you humming catchy tunes for days, might I suggest "Cannibal! The Musical"?
I guess my point is that you need to watch "Cannibal! The Musical."