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Netflix’s Cargo review: A zombie movie about inner conflict. A must watch

Cargo review: Amid a zombie apocalypse, the new Netflix thriller carves out some tender moments as a father journeys across the Australian outback to save his daughter.

tv Updated: May 20, 2018 17:45 IST
Cargo sees Martin Freeman’s Andy fighting to protect his daughter Rosie in zombie-infested Australia.
Cargo sees Martin Freeman’s Andy fighting to protect his daughter Rosie in zombie-infested Australia.

Cargo
Director:
Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke
Cast: Martin Freeman, Caren Pistorious, Simone Landers
Rating: 4/5

It won’t be an understatement to say that zombie movies are evolving --- from a sub-genre of horror to a genre in itself. The popularity of a post-apocalyptic dystopia infested with grotesque, flesh-eating creatures has made sure that clichés are reconstructed and characters reinvented. Hence, we get an action thriller in Resident Evil, a dose of humour in Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse and Zombieland, and a struggle for survival in Train To Busan and Ravenous.

Notwithstanding the portrayal of clichés, Cargo, a Martin Freeman-starrer now streaming on Netflix, is special. Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s movie not only traces an infected father’s journey to save his toddler daughter, but it also brings under the microscope a human mind during the transformation process -- a metamorphosis that sparks a fight within --- after being bitten.

Andy (Freeman) has 48 hours to take baby Rosie to safety. He traverses the countryside of Australia in search of a shelter and meets characters of myriad shades: a woman (Caren Pistorious) who wants to escape from captivity, a cruel man (Anthony Hayes) who still has a bit of humanity buried deep inside and the indigenous people who believe “the land is sick”. Andy realises that Thoomi (Simone Landers), an intelligent aboriginal girl, is his brightest hope.

Cargo is the reconstruction of a powerful short film by Howling and Ramke with the same title. It is at times unusually slow for a zombie movie, but that helps the filmmakers build the characters with care. Central to Cargo’s narrative are its living characters and their love, sacrifice and cruelty. The drama surrounding them supersedes the flesh-munching monsters in the backdrop. And that’s the beauty of this 1 hour 44 minute-journey.

Freeman leads the pack. He is one actor whose same, old mannerisms can portray a wide range of characters --- be it Dr. Watson in Sherlock or Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit trilogy or the desperate father in Cargo. The way he reassures a close one, the way he expresses gratitude and care are so familiar yet unique and lovable in every role he plays. Freeman carries the film on his back, quite literally, while others give him good company as he zigzags the wastelands of rural Australia.

Thematically, Cargo can be compared to Train to Busan; both exhibit a father’s struggle to save his daughter. But Cargo reminds me of the 2013 movie, Warm Bodies, where zombies return to human form as love melts their cold hearts. No such luck for Freeman’s character or others. Nevertheless, Cargo successfully portrays the conflict sparked by a sinister change in the body and the resistance of the human mind that is aware of the endgame. Andy’s taste buds can’t ignore raw meat and blood yet his mind knows he has to save his daughter. Even after Andy is turned, his eyes are covered in yellowish puss and his blood is slimy, he doesn’t fail to recognise his wife’s favourite perfume. That’s the flavour of Cargo. A must watch.