Quick Hit – A short film gets stretched to its limits in this Netflix zombie film.
The zombie genre is at a point where the explosion that happened has started to die off. After the huge success of The Walking Dead, and its subsequent spin offs, and really just all the zombies since they came back hard in the early 2000s, even me, a dedicated horror lover, have had a bit of an overload. Luckily, most talented writers use this as motivation to come up with interesting new ideas. Cargo, a short produced out of Australia, is a great example of using that idea to build a world and present a new and fresh idea. However, I think the movie was probably best presented in that format – a short – because the Netflix film by the same directors feels a bit stretched overall.
Cargo follows a three-person family as the float down a river and attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. Eventually, they have to trek onto land because of a bite that the wife/mother suffers. A car wreck causes Andy (Martin Freeman) to experience a bite of his own, and he now has 48 hours to deliver his daughter to safety before she turns. Parallel to this we get the story of Thoomi, a young Aborigine that is trying to keep her father, who has already turned, alive. Eventually fate brings these two together, and they must work with each other to survive.
On one level, the movie expands on some things that made the short so very fantastic. The movie grows a world out of its Australian setting, placing the characters into the heart of the Outback and letting that unforgiving territory take center stage at times. I also liked that the zombies have more than just the typical zombie make-up – instead, the design team came up with the idea that the zombies produce a honey-like resin that coats their facial features. It’s a small factor, but it helps to differentiate the movie from others like it.
There are some downsides to the longer adaptation of the story though. We get some typical zombie film clichés, like a character who is more monstrous than the undead themselves. We also get a dark tunnel where are characters must confront their own demons, and a lot of the film revolves a bit around a subplot of the land going back to its original people. I don’t have anything wrong with this – it reminds me a bit of The Girl with all the Gifts actually – but it comes across fairly heavy-handed here.
Make no mistake though, this film completely fits in with the family category I’ve lumped it into. Freeman has some beautiful moments (most likely unscripted) with the little girl(s) playing his daughter, and it’s clear that his character will do whatever it takes to leave her safe. Along with that, Thoomi has her own problems with family, because she disagrees with her people’s take on the apocalypse. But together these character’s realize that family is a concept that transcends colors and ages and can bring people of all kinds together.
Cargo is pretty good, but it isn’t perfect. Overall, I’d like to give it a “B”.
For more on this movie, check out IMDB.
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