Cargo follows a father who tries to save his infant daughter from a zombie-infested post apocalyptic world. After being bitten by a zombie himself, he has 48 hours before he succumbs to the infection. He must find a safe haven for his daughter until he becomes her grisly fate.
Cargo is a Netflix Original film based on the acclaimed short of the same name. I absolutely loved the short when it was first released back in 2013. It's a horror tear-jerker and I recommend it to nearly everyone, horror fan or not (and I'll recommend it here as well...click the link above to watch it). It's fantastically directed with a perfect tone and message. It's a darkly beautiful piece. But it raises concerns...
Does a short that is perfection need a feature-length film? Does the subject matter call for such a film? Can Netflix actually pull off a decent film? The questions go on and on...and Cargo soundly answers each one with overwhelmingly positive results.
Perhaps the most valid question is the first...does a short that nails it the first time need a feature-length film? I can't tell you how many times I wish a short would get a feature-length opportunity. Cargo was not one of them, simply because the tale that is woven is perfectly expressed in its 7 minute runtime. But the addition of Martin Freeman in the lead does change things. Does the subject matter call for a feature-length extension? This isn't an exact remake drawn out for an hour and a half. Freeman embraces this concept and makes the character his own. It blends other characters and another subplot that balances Freeman's motif. The short stands on its own, but so does the feature-length film.
Netflix, for perhaps the first time ever, impressed me with a film from beginning to end in nearly every category. Netflix doesn't have a fantastic resume, but I've mentioned before that they seem to be gradually improving with each entry. Cargo is the first that I think I could say deserves a deep indie film circuit.
The zombie-riddled landscape is played out. Australia, our setting for the movie, certainly isn't unfamiliar with post apocalyptic scenarios. But what we get in this entry are smart takes and slight shifts in the narrative that bring about interesting situations and emotionally powerful moments that aren't necessarily unique in this sub-genre, but are crafted expertly.
It's hard to call any zombie film original anymore. Their settings and plots all feel 60% filled out (at least) before the writer has to bring in new material. For the most part, that's the situation here. But it takes an emotionally charged scenario in this familiar territory and gives it acting prowess through Freeman to carry the drama/horror elements to new heights.
The zombie violence is "tasteful" enough that I could recommend this movie for groups of friends with a few horror-intolerant members, yet it does enough to meet horror criteria. More so than, say, Carriers.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 8/10