Director: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Anthony Hayes
Review Author: Tony
While The Cured was more focused on it’s concept (to the detriment of the movie), Cargo is far more concerned with its execution but still finds ways to add a socio-political undercurrent to the film. Cargo is based on a 2013 short film of the same name which became a viral (sorry, not sorry) hit gaining millions of views. It was a simple but emotional piece that gained the filmmakers, Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, significant attention. Enough attention for both to get the chance to make a feature film based on the short which is now being distributed by Netflix.
Set in the backdrop of the Australian Outback, Andy, his wife Kay, and their baby, Rosie, are surviving a zombie epidemic on a houseboat. When Kay becomes infected, Andy tries to use the remaining 48 hours before she turns to get her and Rosie to safety. Distracted, Andy crashes the vehicle they are in and passes out due to shock. Once Andy gains consciousness, Kay has already turned and infects Andy. With only 48 hours on the clock, Andy must traverse the dangerous outback in order to get Rosie to safety and care.
Meanwhile, a young aboriginal girl named Thoomi is hiding her zombified father in the outback from her tribe who are cleansing the land of the infected. Thoomi believes one of the tribe’s elders can cure her father. Both Thoomi and Andy’s path converge in both tragic and inspiring circumstances.
Giving the infection a 48 hour time period was a clever way to raise the stakes and put our protagonist in a race against the clock. It’s already a pretty melancholy concept knowing that there’s no chance for Andy but his focus is Rosie and her safety is Paramount. Along the way, Andy meets an assortment of characters, both good and bad, as he tries to find a suitable guardian for his daughter. While the film can feel a little directionless in the middle, the sense of immediacy keeps the pace driving forward. Unlike the Cured, Cargo stays on point and keeps its execution airtight thanks to the skill of Howling and Ramke.
While the film lifts a lot of the elements from the 2013 short film, it adds a lot of new elements due to the simplicity of the short. The most evident is the addition of the aboriginals. There’s a slight socio-political undercurrent referencing the racism and mistreatment faced by the aboriginal people but their presence is far more important than just adding a political theme. We see how the aboriginals knowledge of the outback has helped them easily survive the pandemic and how their warrior spirit is extremely effective at cleansing the land of the zombie threat. Its a fascinating example of how a culture can combat such a crisis.
Martin Freeman is wonderful in the role of Andy and brings such emotional weight and sincerity to the role. His earlier interaction with his wife Kay are so natural and loving, but it’s his moments with Rosie that will melt your heart. Freeman is so gentle and so attentive with the child I had to look up and see if she was actually Freeman’s daughter. Knowing these are his final moments with his child is heart-wrenching. Simone Landers is equally impressive as Thoomi. Her relationship with Andy begins with distrust and indifference but blossoms into a believable friendship. I’m won’t lie, the final moments of this film had me in floods of tears.
Rating: 4 / 5 Tinnies