Cargo is a 2018 Australian post-apocalyptic thriller film written by Yolanda Ramke and directed by Ramke and Ben Howling, the film is based on Ramke and Howling’s short film Cargo which was one of the most original and moving short films that I have ever seen. This feature-length version of the film features Martin Freeman, who reminded me of the father from The Road, dutifully going on with his journey to protect the most precious thing in his world as around them civilisation collapses.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Australian outback which has been ravaged by an untreatable and highly infectious disease, the film begins with Andy (Freeman), his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their baby daughter on a houseboat on the River Murray in South Australia, trying to find sanctuary. They are running low on food as they are surrounded by people who have succumbed to a fast-acting disease that leaves its victims as flesh-eating, slow-moving, un-dead beings. Desperate to find a foster-carer for baby Rose, a glimmer of hope arrives when a young Aboriginal girl (Simone Landers) who is trying to save her own father comes on the scene.
The cinematography manages to capture the breathtaking landscape, which is a spectacular mixture of red dirt scrub smoldering with spitfire, the broad river with its cliff banks and majestic rocks and the mountains of the Flinders Ranges. As well as the slow-roaming but relentless zombies who live by the well-established rules of the genre, there are occasional fellow survivors like the unhinged Vic (Anthony Hayes) and a fierce resistance being waged by Aboriginal people who have returned to the bush and formed safe communities. We are told that the aboriginal tribes saw this event coming, and they are prepared, unlike the rest of us. Martin Freeman delivers a touching performance and watching his slow demise into one of the undead will bring a tear to your eye. Simone Landers as the young aboriginal girl Thoomi is wonderful too, and has so much maturity despite being so young.
The theme of a deadly disease brings to mind the Ebola and swine flu outbreaks which always makes for a scary experience, although the main theme however, is of race relations and respect for the ancient cultures of Australia’s first people. The plot plays with reversals of our history to this point, but despite its intelligence and sincerity, always maintains the suspense of the horror genre. With a tense atmosphere, a solid plot, breathtaking cinematography and a great performance from Martin Freeman, Cargo is better than the average thriller. I admire the way this film focused on its main character and creates sympathy with him to allow the viewer to become invested in the film’s conclusion. Cargo may not be the film for hard-core zombie fans who enjoy rampant blood and gore, but this an emotional thrill ride which I fully enjoyed and recommend.