REVIEW: Cargo (2018)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Cargo — Directed by Yolanda Ramke & Ben Howling.

Cargo is a post-apocalyptic thriller set in Australia wherein Martin Freeman plays a father who is running out of time. After having been infected by a virus, he now needs to find a place for his very young daughter, and a person — a guardian — that can look out for her and raise her, because sooner or later even he will turn into one of the zombie-like infected brain-eaters that roam the Australian wilderness.

There are so many zombie movies and shows nowadays that I, in a way, grew tired of a subgenre of horror that I have previously loved. There was a time when I would watch The Walking Dead religiously, and read the comic books on which they were based. But even though the act of turning that comic book series into a larger-than-life and never-ending franchise and product drove me away from the series, its focus on character and failing humanity in a post-apocalyptic setting is still one of my favorite methods of storytelling in the zombie subgenre.

As explained, in recent years, some sort of zombie fatigue had come over me, and I simply wasn’t looking for those types of films anymore. That was, however, until I came across Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan, which has probably become my favorite zombie film ever made. It was a film that suddenly made me interested in the subgenre once again.

Thankfully, although it isn’t as strong or memorable as Train to BusanCargo was right up my alley. It tells the story of a parent having to ready himself to let go of his humanity, and, even more powerfully, Cargo is the story of a parent coming to the realization that the world he is leaving for his daughter is unsafe and unfit for her. I think it is an interesting horror-thriller because it both has to work with this character-focused story (instead of a gruesome attack-centric zombie film) and a ticking clock — literally, as Freeman’s character is actually wearing a watch that counts down to the time when he would be ‘too far gone,’ so to speak.

Speaking of Martin Freeman, although I can’t say that it is his best performance, his controlled performance in Cargo is one that works really well for this film. The film obviously wouldn’t have worked without him, but I actually do think he could’ve gone even further towards to end of the film to get the exact sense of inner frustration and sorrow that leaving your child behind in an unsafe world could bring out of a parent. That might’ve been read as a showy performance, so to speak, but I think it would’ve made the film ‘stay with you’ in a way that Cargo certainly does not. We know that Freeman is a capable actor that certainly can go that far, but, for whatever reason, that is not what the filmmakers were going for. Nevertheless, his restrained performance really does work for the film. Freeman is great here.

When it comes down to it, Martin Freeman’s solid performance and the interesting themes cannot save the film entirely from the problems that, at times, bog down this interesting horror-thriller. My one major problem with Cargo is that the pacing of the film doesn’t gel with the fact that Cargo is set up to be a ticking clock film. The filmmakers do not manage to create the sense of urgency that the ticking clock story should have. And, I would add, the filmmakers do not entirely hit hard enough on the themes that the film deals with, which I think is a shame. With that having been said, I still think that Cargo is a film that genre-fans will enjoy.

6.7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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