Set in a post-apocalyptic Australia, Andy (Freeman), wife Kay (Susie Porter), and their baby daughter Rosie (twin babies Lily Anne and Jane McPherson-Dobbins) travel upriver in a boat, keeping away from land. On land, zombies rule – and once bitten, you have 48 hours before you turn undead yourself (following a slow and gruelling metamorphosis). After a complication, Andy is bitten and has to find somewhere safe for Rosie. The clock is ticking.
There are many things to like about the film. Freeman, starring in his second horror film this year (after the brilliant Ghost Stories in April), gives one of his best and most emotional performances to date. He’s a performer who’s perfected the 'nice, normal bloke' character, embodying the British strive for sanity within an insane situation.
There’s a flimsy scene where Andy is trying to maintain a level head, despite his wife expressing intense doubts about their survival. Freeman smiles and shakes his head, conveying two opposite thoughts at once: the situation is horrible, we might not survive — but then again, we might also pull through. Freeman’s a master of this visual-cognitive dissonance.
But Freeman’s performance is a perfect mask for an imperfect screenplay by Ramke, who adds too many superfluous details to her zombie-world. She shoves in tired political messages – barely and clumsily attached to the central story – about fracking issues and Australian racism. Both are personified in the paper-thin character of Vic (Anthony Hayes), a lover of fracking and hater of Aboriginals. Andy relies on Vic for safety, and it’s a thrilling and uncomfortable conflict to watch unfold – definitely the strongest act in the film. But the story and the characters are tarred by the detestable feeling of being fed an irrelevant political point. It’s like having an easy conversation at a party, only to be interrupted by someone screaming about capitalism.
Cargo has been promoted as a 'zombie tearjerker', but the tears aren’t quick to leave. There are some strong emotional scenes, particularly between Andy and Rosie, and they’re heartfelt enough to pursue to the end. But the politics often feel intrusive, and the end feels like a weak attempt to copy-and-paste from the original short. Much of the strength of that little film is gone. In adding too much, a lot is taken away.
This film will be released on Netflix.
|What||Netflix film: Cargo review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
16 May 18 – 16 May 19, On Netflix UK
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|