Although it arrives in a world with no shortage of zombie stories, this Australian Netflix original film manages to carve out a nice little niche for itself.
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) and Susie Porter (Puberty Blues) play Andy and Kay, parents of a 1-year-old, who have taken refuge on a houseboat following a zombie-esque pandemic that has caused society to break down. While heading down river towards a military installation, Kay is bitten by one of the infected and Andy must prepare for her eventual "turn". Then things get worse.
Cargo derives a lot of tension from an aspect of zombification often overlooked in other renderings – the time between knowing you're infected and turning into an actual zombie. In this film, that process takes a couple of days, which throws up all sorts of horrible decisions as the infected anticipate their own deaths, presaged by unnerving symptoms as clinically laid out by pamphlets in government-provided medical kits.
The horror of having to contend with a 1-year-old in this scenario is palpable throughout the entire movie.
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The story takes place entirely in rural Australia, and benefits greatly from the fact that the setting already feels pretty post-apocalyptic. Some Peter Weir-esque lyricism is evoked in the expansive cinematography, and there is genuine power in seeing zombie tropes play out against an environment populated by indigenous Australians.
Freeman puts in a powerful turn as an increasingly desperate father, and there's strong supporting work from Simone Landers and South African-born Kiwi actor Caren Pistorius (Slow West).
It can't entirely shake the familiarity of what is being explored, but there's more than enough storytelling ingenuity on display to warrant your attention.
Cast: Martin Freeman, Susie Porter, Anthony Hayes
Director: Yolanda Ramke, Ben Howling
Running time: 104 mins
Verdict: A pretty bleak affair, but not without hope.