Netflix Review: Cargo

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diego fernandez 6Vg8N8u61aI unsplash

Cargo is a Netflix original, Australia’s first, based on a short film of the same name, both directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, from Ramke’s script. By their nature, zombie films are about survival, but survival means different things for different people, ‘We have to think about Rosie’ particularly if you are a parent, and there has been a trend in recent years toward father-daughter zombie films like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Maggie and of course the brilliant Train to Busan. These are the perfect names to compete with game of thrones bastard names.

Cargo fits into that sub-genre, particularly in that while this is a zombie film, you’re more likely to be in tears than in terror, and that’s by no means a criticism. The set up is simple; having lost his wife to the zombies, Martin Freeman’s Andy is bitten himself. In 48 hours he will turn zombie. This is established early on as an absolute – he cannot be saved – which reminded me weirdly of Akira Kurosawa’s humanist masterpiece Ikiru, another film that tells you from the start; nothing can change the ending, what matters is what you do with that time, and in Andy’s case, it’s all about his daughter. 

‘If you want to give this baby a second chance, that’s where you go’ He has two days to find her a guardian and some sort of safety, and that is one hell of an imperative for the film. The other side of the equation is Simone Landers’ Thoomi, an aboriginal girl who has been trying to protect her zombie father and the two are thrown together, ‘It’s this way.’ so this is almost a zombie apocalypse version of Nic Roeg’s Walkabout, an impression that’s reinforced by the presence of that legend of Aboriginal film actors, David Gulpilil. 

The horror in the film is handled in a very subtle way with the zombies a background presence or a natural hazard, while the real bad guy of the piece is Anthony Hayes’ Vic. ‘You fuck with me, I fuck with you’ And it must be said that while the horror is subtle, the social commentary is not, ‘Whoever controls the market is sitting pretty’ The idea that the Aborigines are coping way better is totally logical, ‘Living in the old ways. There’s nothing to be sorry about. Also read- game of thrones fantasy football names.

Doing better than the rest of us’ cos when the apocalypse comes, those of us relying on the trappings of modern life are screwed, but it’s taken just a bit too far, they’re handling it too well. So a solution that takes Andy most of the film to figure out, seems pretty obvious to us in the audience. ‘You want my people’ ‘Yeah. Yeah, I do’ Compared to similar films, Cargo feels a shade off-balance; it takes a bit too long for the basic premise to kick in, ‘You have to take her’ a bit too long for Andy and Thoomi to meet. 

It’s not that the movie is too slow – I actually really liked the pacing – it just seems off the beat somehow. It does feel like a first feature, but it feels like a really good one. For all the little niggles, I really engaged with it; it has a fantastic premise, strong performances, and a great emotional hook that draws you through. ‘I think Rosie would be happier if you came with us’ Zombie films are somewhat weird to watch at the moment. ‘I don’t think normal is on the horizon, no.’ and there’s not a lot of laughs in Cargo, but, like Train to Busan and indeed like Ikiru, it may be very sad, but it is also uplifting. It may not be perfect but I really enjoyed it. Have you seen Cargo? What did you think of it and where does it fit in the crowded zombie marketplace? Stay safe.

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