‘He is her only hope and her greatest threat’
Cargo is a 2017 Australian science fiction horror film directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling from a screenplay by Ramke. Starring Martin Freeman (Ghost Stories; The World’s End; Shaun of the Dead), the film depicts a desperate father’s attempt to protect his one-year-old daughter from a zombie pandemic. It is based on the 2013 short film Cargo by the same filmmakers.
In a desperate bid to outrun a violent pandemic, Andy and Kay have holed up on a houseboat with their one-year-old daughter, Rosie. Their protected river existence is shattered by a violent attack, which sees Kay tragically die and Andy infected.
Left with only forty-eight hours before he transforms into one of the creatures they have fought so long to evade, Andy sets out on a precarious journey to find a new guardian for his child.
A flourishing Aboriginal tribe are Rosie’s best chance of survival – but with their merciless attitude toward the afflicted, they also pose a grave threat. A young indigenous girl becomes Andy’s only chance of safe passage into this sacred community.
Unfortunately, the girl has no desire to return to her people – she is on a quest to cure her own infected father by returning his stolen soul. Each in their own way is seeking salvation… but they will need to work together if they hope to achieve it.
“The feature is laden with striking imagery and terrific make-up effects, and the lead performance from Freeman is his best work in ages, gracefully detailing the plight of a powerless father. Pacing issues wear the picture down some, as it takes time to get anywhere in the movie, with a few destinations easy to telegraph, and Howling and Ramke are far too dependent on shots of a distressed baby to conjure unease, cheapening suspense. There’s still plenty to admire in Cargo…” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com
“Powerful human-interest drama with neat twists and enthralling characters, Cargo is a zombie film that will entertain both horror fanatics and those less-inclined towards apocalyptic guts-n-gore terror, thanks to it’s beautiful, emotionally charged story. Thoughtful and relatable, it’s a horror film guaranteed to have you drying your eyes, as opposed to hiding them away behind a pillow.” Matt Dennis, Critical Popcorn
“The interactions along the way give the narrative an episodic feeling, with each sequence feeling disconnected from the next. You could write a giant list of all the typical zombie cliches that this film actively avoids (I’m so glad there wasn’t a montage of news reports and riot footage at the beginning), but in doing so, it ends up plunging into an abundance of post-apocalyptic tropes.” Alex Lines, Film Inquiry:
“This particular Netflix-backed release delivers a few jump scares, an interesting take on cultures, as well as an unexpected wallop of emotion for a film that I imagined would contain a handful of gags and feature Freeman as simply a jittery, reactive and reluctant hero. Cargo, however, has much more depth and depicts Andy as both a capable and brave protagonist, and there are little to no comedic components.” Mary Leslie, Film Pulse
“If you are looking for an action-packed zombie movie, or a The Walking Dead bore-fest, look elsewhere. If you want a heartfelt survivalist story about a father and his daughter, with zombies on the fringe and the vastness of the Australian Outback, then Cargo will be right up your alley.” Rafael Motamayor, Flickering Myth
“What could have been a frantic, forgettable gore-fest is actually a deeply touching allegory, using the zombie metaphor in ways that are far more chilling than things that go bump in the night. Cargo stayed with me long after, and I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. I never thought I’d cry at a zombie movie, but Cargo had me in absolute tears. The gorgeous cinematography captures the vast beauty of the Outback, and the lush, original soundtrack is truly outstanding.” Ivy Lofberg, Goomba Stomp
“Disasters usually bring out the best in people, but we never see that in zombie movies and TV shows. At least Ramke’s screenplay offers a more balanced assessment. There are both good and bad people in Cargo, just as there are in real life. Recommended as a zombie film with heart and genuine feeling. Joe Benel, J.B. Spins
“What Ramke and Howling manage to do is use our familiarity with the tropes and continue to ramp up the tension until we get to the inevitable but powerful conclusion. The result is a showcase for original Australian stories, and one of the most remarkable new takes on the genre.” Richard Gray, The Reel Bits
“Eschewing excessive gore for menace and genuine heart-rending drama, it’s a film blessed with a fabulous performance from Freeman and a stunning panoramic backdrop, crisply shot by seasoned cameraman Geoffrey Simpson (Shine). And there’s an appearance, too, from iconic Aboriginal star David Gulpilil (Walkabout).” Jeremy Aspinall, Radio Times
” …in the over-saturated genre of endless zombie apocalypses, Cargo feels refreshingly original. This Netflix Original is certainly one of the better zombie films out there and throughout its 105 minute run time there were only a few moments that the film felt overlong but it’s a minor point in an otherwise engrossing, absorbing film. If you’re a fan of post apocalyptic flicks or want something both overly familiar and refreshingly different, Cargo is your answer here and is well worth checking out.” Greg Wheeler, The Review Geek
“Just when you think the zombie genre has no new stories to tell, along comes the heartbreaking Aussie undead drama “Cargo,” anchored by another wonderfully committed performance from Martin Freeman. It’s an inconsistent work overall, but there’s enough to like here for fans of the genre…” Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
“The juxtaposed depiction of two different cultures dealing with the horrible pandemic is part of the thoughtful approach Ramke and Howling have taken to the walking-dead genre—in which the prospect of becoming one of the virals is just as strong a source of the terror as becoming one of their victims. With Cargo, these filmmakers prove most impressively that you don’t have to spill a lot of guts when you can bring heart and soul to the zombie realm.” Michael Gingold, Rue Morgue
” …Freeman’s usual everyman persona is given a significant showcase, proving the key to the film’s emotional impact. Landers impresses in her screen debut, and the duo’s initially tentative, eventually warm rapport also makes a fitting cultural statement. If human resilience remains paramount in zombie films, Cargo goes a step further…” Sarah Ward, Screen Daily
“Cargo makes the mistake of benching its menace, banishing the undead to blurred shots on the horizon, while doggedly pursuing its theme. It’s as if the film doesn’t want to lower itself to genre. Cargo could learn a lesson from that genre’s master purveyor, George A. Romero […] In delivering its moral pabulum, Cargo forgets to frighten us. In focusing on its subtext, all else goes blurry.” Josh Wise, Slant magazine
- Martin Freeman – Ghost Stories; Hot Fuzz; Shaun of the Dead
- David Gulpilil
- Anthony Hayes
- Caren Pistorius
- Susie Porter
- Simone Landers
Cargo was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018, played in Australian cinemas from May 17, and was released on Netflix worldwide on May 18.