They said that sound would ruin movies. They said that no longer would movies be universal. Besides the technical challenges that it took to bring sound to the theaters, there was also the technical challenges of capturing sound while filming a movie. This meant more crew, more takes, more cost than ever before would be required to complete a movie. In part, they were right. Sound did take away something from films that has not yet been recaptured, even today. Sound took away the simplicity. The necessity to craft characters by what they did, not what they said. To extrapolate meaning and themes from character’s actions, not monologues and dialogue. To take the art to its root, most basic element; Drama.

Charles Chaplin is one such man who knew how to make a drama. In the era of silent films, his comedies were king. Even today they remain enjoyable to watch and as moving as ever. Gold Rush is no exception. It showcases the finest qualities of Chaplin’s talent without it ever feeling drawn out, forced, or unfocused. This is a movie that gets the simple stuff right. In an age where everything onscreen is being blown way out of proportion, it is refreshing to visit the golden age of movie making and actually enjoy a movie for its simplicity, heart, and character.

Story: Chaplin’s trademark Little Tramp character is off to Alaska. Hunting for fortune in the Yukon, he runs into all sorts of characters, eventually getting mixed up with a convict on the run. Will he escape with his life and fortune that he had been seeking, or end up dead like countless others, eyes glossed over by the dream of what could have been? Good (22/25)

Acting: Chaplin is as good as ever. His character expresses an innocence and naivety that makes him immediately likable to all. When bad things happen, you feel sorry. When good things happen, you are happy. Such is the way a good actor playing a good character should be. And the rest of the cast? Pitched perfectly on the apex between overly comedic and overly dramatic, making for a movie that oozes drama. Good (24/25)

Direction: Chaplin knows what to do behind the camera as well. I would recommend watching the version narrated by Chaplin himself, as the film was meant to be. Chaplin knows how to pitch the audience a story. Even when he goes out on a limb to put his characters in new or different situations, he always knows how to bring the story back home. The way that the movie is framed, the way that the narration adds a whimsical overtone, the way that the scenery and characters around the Little Tramp project a feeling of harshness with which the comedy is contrast. It all works surprisingly well. Great (25/25)

Special Effects/X-Factor: The physical comedy is top-notch. The moments in which the characters interact with the environment in a comedic way is well done and quite realistic. The almost cartoonish climax to the film is indeed quite outrageous, but fitting. A classic sequence that all film afeccianados should see. Good (23/25)

The Verdict: (94/100) = A (A Historical Achievement)

  • The Good: An amazing story with outrageous comedic sequences that is anchored to the audience’s heart with a strong performance by Charlie Chaplin as actor, director, and writer.
  • The Bad: A bit predicatable, and the story strays a little bit in the middle. Also, some people may not like silent movies.

Summary: A perfect representation of the golden age of film.

My previous review: Rated: Ten Mini Reviews of 2011 Movies

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