Cargo was originally a 2013 short film shown at the Tropfest film festival, and has gone viral on YouTube with over 14 million views. It was written by Yolanda Ramke, and directed by Ramke and Ben Howling. Five years later, they decided to turn it into a feature film available to Netflix and Australian Theatres. The film is set in an apocalyptic future where slime-covered zombies have invaded the Australian Outback. Martin Freeman stars as Andy, a married father with a baby daughter named Rosie. After an incident where Andy gets bitten by Lorraine, his zombie-infected wife (played by Caren Pistorius), he only has 48 hours to find a suitable guardian to take care of his daughter in preparation of him becoming a zombie.
Amongst the avalanche of the zombie-craze from films like Resident Evil to shows like The Walking Dead, Cargo does feature some uniqueness with its setting and plot. The film explores the Western Culture’s mistreatment towards the Indigenous culture. There are various references to fracking and destroying the outback that once was the Aboriginal’s homeland. Furthermore, the film’s antagonist, Vic (played by Anthony Hayes) has a financial plan for when the apocalypse is over, involving holding Indigenous people in cages as bait, like Thoonie (brilliantly played by Simone Landers), a young girl who Freeman meets on his journey. It also shows the Indigenous people being more suited to survive in the barren environment as they cleanse the land with fire and dispose of any infected zombies. Furthermore, I like the use of an environment that’s always depicted as a harsh land in various films like Priscilla and Mad Max. This makes the process of finding a more suitable and caring guardian for Andy’s baby daughter more difficult. Geoffrey Sampon’s cinematography does a great job in showing the depths of the unforgiving outback.
However, while the zombies themselves do have some unique design features that allow them to blend into the environment (like being covered in slime and burying their heads in the sand), this slowly paced film does retread a few tropes in its genre. Also, the acting from Freeman was nothing special, as his performance seems too safe and overall too similar to his previous roles to be exciting or fresh. There were a few scenes where the emotions he expressed came and left at an unconvincing rate. Also, his character makes a few idiotic choices that don’t seem to make sense given the zombie situation and considering he has an infant to protect. But overall, it’s a good film to stream on Netflix if you’re into drama films with zombies surrounded by a different setting. I would also recommend the original short film that’s currently available to watch on YouTube. The lead is more direct and believable, and it’s more interesting and simplistic with zero dialogue. Check it out for yourself here and see what you think!