“We all get sick”
From first-time filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, Cargo follows the story of Andy as he desperately tries to make his way across the outback in a post-apocalyptic Australia and get his one-year daughter to safety before he succumbs to a zombie virus. Along the way, he meets Thoomi, a young girl who is protecting her zombified father from being killed, and who may just be able to help lead him and his daughter to safety.
Zombie films are hard sells nowadays, and a zombie film in the outback is an even harder one. With the ever-growing list of zombie franchises such as the popular TV series The Walking Dead, iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet, and the endless Resident Evil films, not to mention the standalone films Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead and World War Z (just to name a few), there are few angles left to take.
Surprisingly, Cargo manages to carefully straddle the line between formulaic and unique. Because it presents a film that is recognisable enough in its themes and plot as a zombie film, but it’s also careful with the characterisation and location choice that truly make it a different take on the whole zombie epidemic.
Martin Freeman is brilliant as the helpless Andy who’s just trying to keep his family safe. His paternal protectiveness of his young daughter Rosie is his drive throughout the entire film and is played to such precision that it gives the whole film purpose, which is often a missing aspect from typical zombie films. Newcomer Simone Landers is also wonderfully strong and insightful as Thoomi. Her powerful belief in her cultures traditional rituals, is never portrayed as naïve but instead, is a sliver of hope in a largely doomed world.
But ultimately this film isn’t about a zombie-virus invasion or white vs. Indigenous culture; it is simply a story of survival. Where the outback is no longer a dangerous environment but actually a sanctuary, and where the people remaining are trying to survive in any way they know how. And whilst the film contains the necessary drone shots of the Australian outback for the international viewers, it still manages to portray the outback in a completely different way. Almost as how Australian’s see it and not rather something to be feared of.
I’d definitely recommend giving this film a watch, if not for a different take on Australian culture in cinema or a unique offering to the zombie genre, but at least for Martin Freeman owning this role like a boss. See it.