Cargo (2018) Netflix

Tagline: “He is her only hope. And her greatest threat.” Like thumbing in a softie, this gets the job done just for the sake of it, and simultaneously does nothing for either party.*

Premise: Set in an Australia ravaged by a zombie like infection, a father must transport his baby to safety against the ticking clock as the virus slowly takes hold of him.

Delivery: Cargo is the latest film offering from Netflix, and stars Martin Freeman; who I'm sure I've seen in something before. The Netflix offerings of Annihilation, The Outsider and Bright all failed to grab me completely, despite having some elements I liked. Cargo promised a zombie like infection, societal collapse setting and the potential to be downright depressing. I didn't need asking twice. My first worry was the hot, desert setting immediately reminded me of zombie film The Dead, which was awful, but my concern washed away pretty quickly.

Despite the slightly slow pacing, the characters in Cargo are believable, and the danger is, too. The film is understated, which I liked, particularly when so many of a similar genre would go balls out, whizzbangs and high concepts, but with little depth. I was concerned this might mean a flat feel to the almost two hour duration, but I needn't have been. What Cargo does, it does well, but it's not an all out action, or an all our horror. It's a really (in some ways, more anon) quite clever take on the zombie story, with a race against the clock and a parenthood theme akin to The Road.

Particularly impressive about Cargo, for me, was the make up and effects on the infected, which I found really quite creepy, and the bits of gore the film has. Much like the acting and dialogue, the gore is not in the Romero fashion of zombie films, rather it is sparing and believably nasty. You won't see any heads being cut off with spades, but you'll wince at bite wounds and recoil at the grisly infected.

My only criticism of Cargo is that it felt uncomfortable with being a little bit throwaway, and decided to add a political “subtext” about as subtle as a pogrom. I won't tell you what because it might spoil it, and you might not notice it- but if you don't I will judge you from my bedsit. It's on a streaming platform where everything is throwaway, like the rest of modern life and should just accept it like the rest of us. Other criticism is that watching with the subtitles on was a bit distracting, but my girlfriend likes them and yes I was just mentioning that so I can brag.

Bedsit it? I enjoyed it, despite the occasional unsubtle moment, and I suppose I concede that there's a sort of clever idea in there.Cargo is quietly emotional, reasonably dark and in places very good fun. Martin Freeman carries it excellently, too. 7/10

*The tagline on the poster is worse, and gives away the subtext


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