Overly Familiar but Refreshingly Different
Cargo is both wholly original and overly familiar at the same time. The plot feels eerily similar to other post apocalyptic films, most notably The Road, but Martin Freeman’s incredible performance as a desperate father seeking refuge in Australia is refreshing to watch and his performance carries the film for long stretches. Although a few of the side characters feel a little underdeveloped in Freeman’s shadow, and the story never really deviates from the usual tropes you’d expect from this genre, Cargo is still an incredibly endearing, enjoyable film that deserves to be watched by a broad audience.
The story begins in the Australian outback on board a house boat surrounded by murky, undisturbed water. Andy (Martin Freeman) and Kay (Susie Porter) live a relatively sheltered life away from the chaos gripping the rest of mainland Australia following a viral outbreak that’s decimated society as we know it. When resources dwindle on board the boat and a chance encounter with a shipwrecked yacht promises a rare solution to their problems, what follows are a series of spiralling events that see the family’s lives turned upside down. Most of the film follows Andy who struggles to keep mentally strong in the face of adversity while carrying his baby daughter to safe refuge. What’s particularly interesting with Cargo is the way the world is built. There’s little in the way of expository dialogue and barely any sort of reference to show how or why the virus has spread in the first place and Cargo is all the better for it. We’ve seen this scenario numerous times before and it’s testament to what good work the scriptwriters have done here to keep the characters the centre focus rather than the cliched setting they all find themselves inhabiting.
Cargo’s slick cinematography feels like its taken inspiration from fellow post-apocalyptic film Children Of Men. Large, open spaces work well to drive home the idea of helpless isolation while a lot of the important exposition is shown through what’s going on in the background rather than the foreground. It works well for the most part too and helps to increases tension during some of the crucial moments in the plot. There are a few sombre moments here that do linger a little too long but overall the editing and camera work does a good job of keeping the plot moving forward at a consistent pace.
Cargo’s main selling point here though is its acting and Martin Freeman is absolutely incredible in his role. You really feel like he’s a father struggling to keep a grip on reality and late on there’s a particularly endearing shot of him contemplating two possible outcomes to his situation that hammer home the inner conflict this man is going through. Excluding the infected,Andy’s encounters with sleazy Vic (Anthony Hayes) in the outback are about as close to an antagonist as Cargo dares venture and for the most part, he plays the role well; you really feel like he’s a man revelling in profiting from other’s misfortune and helps drive a big wedge between him and Andy. It’s this juxtaposing idea of how to survive in this situation that makes these sort of films fascinating to watch and at a stretch, why PS3’s smash hit The Last Of Us succeeded where many have fallen by the wayside.
Cargo may not be the most prolific film to be released this year nor is it wholly original in the way the plot develops but the original Australian setting and inspired acting make it worth its weight in gold. The Road is perhaps the better option if you’re after something gritty and bleak, especially considering Cargo sticks eerily close to the set up and premise of that film, but in the over-saturated genre of endless zombie apocalypses, Cargo feels refreshingly original. This Netflix Original is certainly one of the better zombie films out there and throughout its 105 minute run time there were only a few moments that the film felt overlong but it’s a minor point in an otherwise engrossing, absorbing film. If you’re a fan of post apocalyptic flicks or want something both overly familiar and refreshingly different, Cargo is your answer here and is well worth checking out.