Cargo

The future is fragile.

Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) leads this outback post-apocalyptic thriller as a father looking for salvation for his baby daughter.

When a freakish pandemic claims his partner's life and infects his bloodstream, Andy (Freeman) has 48 hours until he turns into one of the creatures his family has tried so hard to avoid. With his one-year-old daughter Rosie on his back, Andy searches for a safe pair of hands to protect her. His best chance is a flourishing Aboriginal tribe, but it's a passage not easily granted. Based on the directors' 2013 short film of the same name, which was a finalist at the Tropfest short film festival.

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Directed by

Written by

Drama, Horror, Mystery

104mins

Rating: MA15+ Strong horror themes, violence and coarse language

Australia

Aaron-Yap2

Aaron Yap

flicks

Often when it seems like there’s nowhere for zombie movies to go, a little out-of-left-field film comes along to prove you wrong, squeezing a smidgen more life out of the genre’s exhausted conventions. Aussie epidemic pic Cargo does just that: injecting bracing, subtle layers into long-established flesh-munching lore while neither completely reinventing anything.

Its family-in-peril set-up is awfully familiar with A Quiet Place still fresh in the mind — there’s a baby here that really needs to pipe down, too. And you’ll see herky-jerky undead roaming the landscape for entrails, and infected characters biding time before the inevitable. But directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke are clearly gunning for more than a headshot-laden thrill-fest, harnessing its eco-minded plot to express an uncharacteristically humane, subdued vision of a post-apocalypse.

Based on their 2013 short film, Cargo isn’t totally free of narrative stretch marks, with some of its intriguing world-building elements, including references to fracking and land exploitation, coming off slightly under-imagined. Likewise, Anthony Hayes’ abusive, survivalist kook is much too easy and hackneyed a source of antagonism. However, the filmmakers’ sensitivity to the disenfranchisement of the Aboriginal people, seen through the eyes of a young Indigenous girl named Thoomi (terrific newcomer Simone Landers), and a deftly judged use of Martin Freeman’s innately warm, likeable everyman presence, give Cargo a well-earned depth of poignancy lacking in most other examples of the genre. Despite some stunning cinematography that conveys the Outback’s disquieting majesty, the film’s scaled-back character focus finds an ideal home on Netflix.

Reel Bits

press

One of the most remarkable new takes on the genre.

Screen International

press

Pitting Martin Freeman against the undead in the Australian outback, Cargo may take a bite out of a teeming genre, but it does so with heart, smarts and some weighty matters on its mind.

The Guardian (UK)

press

A zombie film with soul and pathos.

FilmInk (Australia)

press

Who’d have thought that the secret to new life would be to inject a little humanity into the old shambling corpse?

Variety (USA)

press

This familiar saga eschews jolting scares for survival-esque (and dark-heart-of-man) thrills, relying largely on Freeman's compelling lead turn to set it apart from the genre.

Entertainment Weekly

press

The Australian setting brings a fresh, and epic, quality to this now done-to-death genre, and the directors introduce a few nice new kinks to the zombie mythology.

Los Angeles Times

press

Co-directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (the latter of whom wrote the screenplay) sacrifice some tension with their more character-based approach, but the cumulative effect is emotionally powerful.