Title – Cargo (2017)
Directors – Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke (feature debuts)
Cast – Martin Freeman, Anthony Hayes, Simone Landers, David Gulpilil, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius
Plot – In the midst of a zombie-like infection plaguing the Australian landscape, father Andy (Freeman) must find a safe haven for his baby daughter Rosie as he faces the prospect of losing his humanity after a zombie bite.
“This country is changing”
Review by Eddie on 04/06/2018
Netflix’s first original Australian production, Cargo comes to the streaming service with some prestige behind it, with its preceding short film of the same name a finalist in the 2013 Tropfest Short Film Festival and a viral sensation online that garnered over 13 million views on its Youtube release.
Enhancing their unique vision of a father protecting his baby in the midst of a zombie infected landscape, short film directing duo Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke take the reigns over here to further develop their original take on the zombie apocalypse genre, yet while its great this local directing pair had the chance to bring this story to life in a larger narrative format, their inexperience with a feature length production shows, as Cargo struggles to its end game through a collection of poorly developed characters, scenes and situations.
At its heart, Cargo still holds the potentially powerful and engaging concept of Martin Freeman’s Andy travelling the outback of Australia in his final days of humanity, trying to find a potential carer for his baby daughter after he is bitten in a zombie attack but Howling and Ramke fail to properly engage us in this plight as Andy goes from place to place meeting a various collection of mistrusting and vile people, withered from their experiences in this walking dead plagued land.
There’s an inescapable feeling that Cargo lacks a clear direction on its goal to expand its simplistic short film origins, throwing in a large portion of commentary on the role Indigenous people play in this new world order, including the addition of newcomer Simone Landers as Andy’s eventual travel companion, while moving on to feature a more stock standard battle of good and evil with Andy vs Anthony Hayes’s blood thirsty Vic, Cargo quickly loses sight of what made it such a good story in the first place as Andy and his daughter Rosie get carried away with the more generic trappings of the expanded Cargo universe.
Another falling down of Cargo the feature film is unfortunately the big name casting of Martin Freeman.
Well esteemed through his work in television and through his feature film work in The Hobbit, Freeman feels like the wrong fit as Andy and brings neither the emotional power or the gravitas to the role which was needed, at times he feels to be on auto-pilot and helps create a character that isn’t actually all that appealing at the end of day, especially after a series of odd decisions and curious traits that make Andy into a rather unlikeable central figure.
Final Say –
For a different take on the zombie genre Cargo does its job well and its brilliantly shot by DOP Geoffrey Simpson but as a whole this is a hugely disappointing reimagining of a genuinely great short film that fails to capture the heart needed to make this story something truly worth seeing.
2 house boats out of 5
Watch the original Cargo short film here –