Cargo is unlike any ‘zombie film’. This isn’t action packed. This isn’t gory, for the most part, and doesn’t feature zombies eating people, or even many zombies at all. 28 Days this is not. Rather, this is a film about family and friendship, and it is deeply moving as the film progresses and the situation of Andy and his family steadily becomes worse.
Set in an apocalyptic type world where stealing and looting is essential for survival, and trust is an extremely hard thing to form, writer/director Yolanda Ramke has created a unique and fresh take on the genre- not an easy thing to do considering how crammed it is. The addition of Aboriginal People moving away from towns to their natural land to escape the creatures is a fantastic touch, and adds another face to the film, stamping it as uniquely Australian. It is also a very apt metaphor, as in Australia today, that is what these people want to do, but but they are being forced to do the opposite. Here, the plague has set them free.
The tension mounts as soon as the film starts, as it is instantly obvious that Andy and his family- his wife and a very young baby daughter. They are running out of food as they float on a houseboat of sorts, Andy asserting that they can’t go onto the land. When they see a turned over boat, Andy rows over to take as much food as he can. When he goes to sleep his wife Kay decides to do the same, and the scene is great as we almost know something will happen, but we don’t know what or how. Further scenes play on this same concept, many compounded by a brilliant soundtrack.
When Kay is bitten early into the film, she sets her watch for 48 hours. At that point we realise how much they know about the situation, that it clearly happened months or years before we first see them, as she knows that 48 hours is how long it takes for a person to turn. They are then presented with an awful situation. Vic asserts they it is her decision to decide what she will do and Andy has no say. For Andy, it must be heartbreaking and scary knowing that soon his wife will be gone, and he will be alone with his young daughter.
The rest of the film progresses at a steady, dread-filled pace. We meet some interesting characters, especially Vic, a possibly psychotic survivor who is hoarding gas, convinced the plague will end and people will want essentials. Thoomi is also fascinating as a person, a teenage Aboriginal girl who at first seems naive, but soon becomes integral to the plot as she tries to form a friendship with Andy. Thoomi is played by Simone Landers, who is incredibly convincing in her first feature film. Martin Freeman is also outstanding as Andy and his poise is one reason why there is often tension in the air simply due to his conviction.
Andy is later faced with a hard decision and it again is family that is the core theme. Incorrectly marketed as a psychological thriller or even a horror film, while it is very tense at time, this for the most part is a drama that has a few zombies in it acting a little creepy. It is moving and the addition of Aboriginal people into the plot thankfully isn’t random, and their unique culture adds another flavour to the film. The only problem is, while moving, it doesn’t have much ‘oomph’. It doesn’t pack a gut punch when it feels like it should. It is a fantastic movie regardless and must be commended for being a zombie film like no other.
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