I never thought I would use the word “heartwarming” to describe a zombie flick, but that’s honestly the most apt descriptor I have for the Netflix original film Cargo, starring Martin Freeman.
The premise of this film is familiar, yet puts an interesting twist on the zombie genre; Set in rural Australia during the early stages of zombie apocalypse, husband & father Andy (Freeman) is determined to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe. But after things go awry & he is bitten by his infected wife, he has just 48 hours to find a safe place for his baby daughter before he turns as well. This is a really nice character-driven set up with inherently high stakes, and Martin Freeman carries the film with stunning ease. Freeman’s performance was incredibly nuanced and deeply emotional, great fun to watch despite how sad the situation was. Freeman has a masterful way of sharing emotions with the audience, and even in moments where Andy has to make a tough decision and switches between emotions quickly, the viewer is always privy to that process, even though it goes on inside his head. This is what good acting is supposed to do, and something I find incredibly important in survival stories.
Besides from Martin Freeman, the other immediately striking thing about this film was its setting. It manages to make the cruel wasteland landscape of Australia during a zombie apocalypse look beautiful. I was constantly blown away by the visuals, which were at the same time threatening and alluring. Adding to this was the impressive directing, done by Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke. There are some seriously brilliant shots in film, and more than once I had to pause and replay a scene just because the shot was so interesting.
As far as plot goes, beyond the one little eccentricity in the premise, it’s a pretty basic zombie film. It never gets to the hieght of fear in the way that The Walking Dead did in its early seasons, but I don’t really think it was trying to. Cargo is not a horror film. At its core its about a father seeking refuge for his daughter, and it cares more about that conflict than about the zombies themselves. That being said, the zombie logic doesn’t always follow, and while it did make me wonder how the characters had survived as long as they did with such little apparent knowledge of the zombies, it wasn’t egregious enough to be distracting,
I appreciated that the directors really understood the scale of this film. It never felt like it was trying to do too much, or be something bigger than it was. They knew that the zombie market was quite saturated, and it didn’t feel like they were trying to make the best zombie film, but rather a different zombie film, and this they achieved.
All in all, I would say the film is definitely worth a watch. I would recommend it to most people for Martin Freeman’s acting alone. It’s a far more casual viewing experience than Annihilation, but it’s still got plenty of substance to sink your teeth into.
Overall score: 6.8/10