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Cargo, movie (2017) - Film review by KadmonCargo, movie (2017)
image © Cargo Films Holding & Screen Australia & South Australian Film Corporation & Screen NSW & Adelaide Film Festival

Article updated: 2022.11.26

The Cargo (2017) is a post-apocalyptic family drama film. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.

Product: Cargo, movie (2017)

Original title: Cargo

Series: -

Other adaptations of the story: Cargo (2013)

Setting: alternate Earth

Product type: Film, Genre: post-apocalyptic family drama, Style: drama, post-apocalyptic, family drama, zombies

Release: Premiere: 2017.10.06 (Adelaide Film Festival), Release: 2018.05.17

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Preferences: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises to spoilers, prefers establishing elements before referencing them

Watched: very recent (2021.03), first time

Rating: Average (2 out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Weak (2- out of 3 points)

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This is my review of Cargo, a post-apocalyptic family drama movie from 2017. It's about a family stuck in a bad situation during a zombie apocalypse. The Cargo film has some interesting parts, I recommend it to fans of family dramas set in a zombie apocalypse.

If you'd like to be surprised by the Cargo film, I don't recommend you to watch the trailer beyond 0:40, because it gives away too much of the plot. It basically provides a summary of the film, only the very end we are not shown.

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Review (spoiler-free) - Cargo, movie (2017)

I didn't know anything about this movie, not even the genre. Somebody recommended it to me, and as I've seen Martin Freeman as the main character, I hoped he made a good choice. I didn't watch the trailer before watching the movie.

The Cargo movie is about a family stuck in a bad situation during a zombie apocalypse.

The story was overall good, but the film was a bit too long. The whole movie is kind of depressing, it just shoves misery on the watcher, until it ends. The ending was good, though. I'm not sure there are proper character arcs. The setting is believable, it's the plot that really tries to focus on the message of the film, that is detrimental to the story.

If you've seen the original short movie, it's an interesting expansion of that.

The cinematography is okay. The film looks good visually, although I have to admit that I'm attracted to desert scenes.

The characters are not very well established. Even after the end, we don't know anything about the background of the main characters. The characters are also not very clever, and their stupid decisions move the plot forward. The actors were good enough for these roles.

The music was okay.

Cargo is a watchable post-apocalyptic family drama with zombies, if you really don't have anything better to watch.

My experience

I was mostly satisfied with Cargo (2017), but a more intense cut would improve it for me.

Rating: Average (2 out of 3 points). Cargo is a well-made film, it's just very slow.

Enjoyment: Weak (2- out of 3 points). Cargo just couldn't really catch my interest.

Rewatchability: I'm not sure. I think if you loved it for the first time, you'll like to watch it for multiple times.

Chance of watching it again: Nope. I've seen it once, and that was just enough.

Chance of watching a sequel: Probably. Although I'd make sure to learn more about the movie before watching it.

Cargo, movie (2017) - Film review by KadmonCargo, movie (2017)
image © Cargo Films Holding & Screen Australia & South Australian Film Corporation & Screen NSW & Adelaide Film Festival

Will you enjoy this?

If you like slow burning family drama movies set in a zombie apocalypse, you might like Cargo.

If you like watching movie set in the Australian wilderness, you might enjoy Cargo.

If zombie movies are not your usual choice, but you like family dramas, you might give Cargo a try. I've read many reviewers who said that they otherwise don't like zombie movies but they enjoyed this one.

If you dislike films with zombies in it, Cargo is not for you. It doesn't have anything that would redeem the zombie aspect.

If you prefer horror or action thriller movies (28 Days Later, World War Z), you might be disappointed in this, as there are not many action scenes or scary scenes in the Cargo movie.

If you get through the first 30 minutes of the Cargo film without being bored, you might enjoy the rest of the Cargo movie.

Do you need to see the short movie to enjoy this?

No, this is a remake, it has all the explanations you need to understand what's going on without seeing the previous adaptation. Although, if you watch the short movie, you'll get the interesting parts with a lot more compact storytelling.

Watching for plot points

If you are interested in zombie stories, I think it's worth watching the Cargo movie for the plot points about the zombie infection.

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Cargo, movie (2017) - Film review by KadmonCargo, movie (2017)
image © Cargo Films Holding & Screen Australia & South Australian Film Corporation & Screen NSW & Adelaide Film Festival

Review with spoilers - Cargo, movie (2017)

I mostly liked the Cargo movie.

It took me a while to realise that I've seen the same story, when it was a short movie.

Cover

Most of the covers of the movie are okay, although some of them clearly show it that the father will be infected, and he will be alone with the baby. I'd prefer if they weren't this direct.

The trailer

The trailer is basically a substitute for watching the movie, and it's more interesting than the actual film.

If you prefer spoilers, it's a great trailer for the Cargo film. If you prefer to avoid spoilers, it will ruin the movie for you.

Promise of the first scene

There's going to be a family, who are in some kind of dire situation.

Execution: The story was not what I would have expected based on the promise, but the focus was on the family, and the situation was really dire. So that's okay by me.

Plot summary / Synopsis

In Australia there's a family on a boat, going down the river. There's a father (Martin Freeman as Andy), a mother (Susie Porter as Kay), and a child (Rosie). They see another family on the shore, but they act threateningly.

We also get introduced to an aboriginal kid (Simone Landers as Thoomi), who spends her days in the wild.

The family on the boat is low on food. During a scavenger trip, the mother gets bitten. They are afraid that she got infected by a deadly disease. They decide to go to a hospital. The mother turns into a zombie and bites the father.

He goes to a settlement with his daughter. A local woman recommends her that he should go to the aboriginal people for help, but he decides he's rather choose more civilized people.

A man (Anthony Hayes as Vic) helps him, and takes him to a gas station (or gas mining facility?), where he lives with a woman (Caren Pistorius as Lorraine). It turns out that the man lures zombies into traps with captive locals, so he can take the possessions they still have on their bodies. The woman asks for the help of the father to get away from the man, as she is not his wife, as first thought, but she was kidnapped by him. They get caught, and the father gets closed into a cage with the aboriginal kid. They get away, and go back to the gas station, to help the woman. The man notices this, and shoots at them, killing the woman. They go to the family they've seen at the beginning, but their father is infected, so all of them commit suicide.

The father then decides to go to the aboriginals. They meet again with the man from the gas station, they have a fight, but manage to escape. On their way the father starts to lose his humanity, so he comes up with the idea of using a stick with some entrails on it as bait, so the daughter and the kid gets on his back, and the kid uses the bait to control his movement.

They reach the aboriginals, who take the daughter and kill the father, who has now turned into a zombie.

The setting

It is set in contemporary Earth, that was hit by a rage virus epidemic.

The world seems to be really well organised during all this. There are watches specifically made to show how long does an infected have that seems to be given freely by the government. They also spread little aid packages around the country, even if they don't know if there are still people alive.

Cargo, movie (2017) - Film review by KadmonCargo, movie (2017)
image © Cargo Films Holding & Screen Australia & South Australian Film Corporation & Screen NSW & Adelaide Film Festival

The infection (zombies)

The infected are living slow rage zombies, who die if they don't eat. They don't use tools.

The infected have about 48 hours before they turn into zombies. Until then, they sometimes have seizures.

The infection is transmitted by bites. The bitten area starts to produce an orange slime. When they turn, the infected start to produce the orange slime from their eyes, nose and mouth.

They need darkness to sleep, they often dig a hole to put their heads into.

They are attracted by the smell of uninfected living, or by the flesh of uninfected dead. Noises also attract them.

The aboriginals use some kind of pigment they think will cover their scent.

The infected seems to be a little stronger than humans, but they are not super-strong. They seem to be killed easily by fighters, but it's not entirely clear whether their heads need to be destroyed to kill them, or it's just a thing they do habitually.

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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?

This is the first feature film I've seen from the writer/director (Yolanda Ramke). It wasn't a bad story, so I'd like to see her following works. I've also seen a previous short of her, also titled Cargo, that was more compact, and for me, better than this one.

This was the first movie from the director (Ben Howling), who was also the director of the Cargo short. The direction of this was okay, I'd like to see his work.

How does it compare to the original short film?

You can watch the original here: Cargo (2013) short movie

I've seen the short version of Cargo in 2013.08. That was a lot better, the ending was more touching.

If that was updated into a 30 minute version, with the introduction of the family from the movie, then cutting to the end, it would have been better.

The fact that the movie really wanted to emphasise the "primitive is good, civilized is bad" message, made the new version worse for me.

If you liked Cargo, I recommend you to also watch the short version. If you started to watch Cargo, and got bored enough to stop watching it, I still recommend to watch the short movie, because that is not boring.

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Cargo, movie (2017) - Film review by KadmonCargo, movie (2017)
image © Cargo Films Holding & Screen Australia & South Australian Film Corporation & Screen NSW & Adelaide Film Festival

Analysis of the story - Cargo, movie (2017)

I mostly liked the story, I didn't find problems that would have prevented me from enjoying Cargo, but I didn't get to love it either.

The message of the story

Living together with the nature is good, civilization is bad. Every civilised (white) men they meet is either stupid or evil. It's the aboriginals who are good. The woman in the beginning sent the father to the aboriginals, and all of his problems came from the fact that he didn't follow her advice. In the end, when he went to the aboriginals, things turned good. Simone Landers, an actor in the film said that the zombie epidemic is a symbol of the Western pollution, while the aboriginals respect the land.

The structure of the story

The scenes of the Cargo film are played in sequence, following the same storyline. It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure - beginning, action, resolution.

Things I liked

I liked the actors, they were fine in the movie.

The look of the zombies was good, and distinct from other movies.

Problematic elements

The title: The title "Cargo" was fine for the original short movie, because that was all about the cargo. However, this story doesn't focus entirely on the cargo, so the title could have been practically anything else.

Stupidity: One of the problems with zombie films is that people have to act stupidly so there could be a story. Here, we have that too in the beginning. In the end, the father puts teeth protector on himself and ties his hands to protect the daughter. If they had done the same to the mother, he wouldn't have been bitten.

When the father discovers the wrecked boat, he goes immediately there, alone, without alerting the mother. She was probably sleeping through that, but if he really wanted to let the mother sleep, he could have waited.

Then, if the father had told the mother about the strange noise on the wrecked boat, she might have thought twice about going there. This might be okay in an ordinary situation, as I understand that he wouldn't want to scare the mother. However, this is not an ordinary situation.

Also, if the mother wouldn't have wandered alone into the zombie, the whole story wouldn't have happened.

The lack of communication between the family shows either how stupid they are (and they don't seem to be), or how distant they are in their relationship (that also looks normal). So, it's something I just can't understand.

The kid: The introduction of the aboriginal kid came too early. At that time we didn't know what to make of the scenes we have seen with her. It would have been probably better to either cut her scenes from the beginning entirely, or tie them somehow to the story. For example, the boat of the family goes on the river in the background, and we see a quick cut of the kid on the shore.
Another way it would have worked is to give similar time to her storyline, and a similar weight to the things that are happening to her.

The creators said that they wanted to portray the struggles of another family, in a very different situation - the kid wants to save her zombified father, while her mother is trying to find her.

However, I don't feel it that this worked particularly well. Maybe in a TV series, it could have been the story of an episode.

Established mother: I think we should have got more scenes with the mother, so we would feel more close to her, so when she's gone, we'd be more touched by this.

Super zombies: When they use the zombies to pull up the cage, it was somewhat stupid. Unless the zombies are super-strong, and they really wish to pull those entrails for some reason, that plan wouldn't have worked.

Bleak movie: At 1:20 I've felt that the movie has spent enough time on hopelessness and misery, but there were still 20 minutes to go. The movie was too long for the story within, and several scenes could have been cut without changing the story.

Stick with bait: In the original short, it was a smart idea to use it to make the zombified father move forward, but in this longer version, the kid is already there, who could just take the child, and bring it to the aboriginals. Also, by this time in the story we already see that the father is anything but smart, so it's an uncharacteristical thing for him.

Happy ending: At the ending, the happy scenes with the aboriginals were probably unnecessary. I would have preferred if they had ended the film after the father gets killed, and after some scenic shots, cut to the baby toy, and fade to black.

The trailer

The trailer spells out a large part of the story, up to almost the ending scene. So if you watch the trailer, you will already know that the mother will die, the father will get infected, the man from the gas station has something shady about him, and that the kid will be rescued, and then the kid will help the father.

Unanswered questions

 

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Possibilities of improvement

  • Cut the end fight with Vic in the tunnel. Truth to be told, the whole tunnel scene could be cut.

How it could have been better?

 

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Cargo, movie (2017) - Film review by KadmonCargo, movie (2017)
image © Cargo Films Holding & Screen Australia & South Australian Film Corporation & Screen NSW & Adelaide Film Festival

Uses for the film - Cargo, movie (2017)

Plot

  • Rage virus epidemic

Scenes

  • Nothing comes to my mind that was memorable.
  • There were some nice scenic shots, that might be used to depict an Australian wilderness

Scenarios - Role-playing game

  • The characters have a limited time, but they have to find someone to take care of their precious cargo. They can't just leave it anywhere, it has to be someone they could trust. Even if they can't find the right people before their time expires, they have to find someone who is willing to continue their mission to find the right one.
    Possible causes for the limited time:
    • they are dying due to poison or infection
    • exposure to the cargo kills them slowly
    • they belong to a species with a very limited lifespan
  • There's a man during a zombie apocalypse who tries to gather as much material wealth as possible, to prepare for the time when things will return to normal. He captures and puts people in cages in the area to use as bait for the zombies, then he kills those zombies occupied by the bait. He might have captured other people to use as slaves in his home. The characters might be tired or wounded, and they get from the man for a price, and they start to notice that something is not right about him. Or they might run into one of the cages, and have to decide what will they do about this.

Scenarios - Wargame

  • A member of a team gets kidnapped. The capturing team has some fighters, and there are some slaves in their base. When the rescue team gets to the base, they have to find the kidnapped member, and leave the area with him. The capturing team is not on alert, most of them sleep, the guards may move randomly. The slaves of the capturing team are also asleep. When the team gets near a room with a sleeping unit, they get up on 1-2 on d6. If it's a fighter, it goes out of the room, to check the noise. If it's a slave, it remains in the room. If a fighter sees the rescue team, it alerts the others, and from that moment, the capturing team can act without limits. If a slave sees the rescue team, roll a d6: 1-4: it alerts the fighters, and tries to move away from the rescue team; 5-6: doesn't alert the fighters, but asks them to help him to escape, and to help him with a task. If they accept this, they have to take care of them, and there will be another random objective they have to get, before they can rescue the kidnapped member: 1-2: another specific slave to be rescued, if they reach it, there's no need to roll, the slave will join them, 3-4: a specific fighter to be killed, 5-6: get an item from one of the rooms. The kidnapped member is in a room with a slave guarding him.

Miniatures - 1/50-1/60 (28-32mm scale)

Civilians: Modern human-sized human civilians.

Zombies: Modern human-sized zombies.

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Similar stories - Cargo, movie (2017)

Movies

Cargo (2013): This is the short movie that Cargo (2017) expanded into a feature film length.

Maggie (2015): A family drama, set in a zombie apocalypse. I enjoyed Cargo more, probably due to the more interesting setting.

It Stains the Sands Red (2016): Set in a zombie apocalypse. A woman was wandering in the wilderness alone.

The Dead (2010): Set in a zombie apocalypse. A man was wandering in the wilderness alone, with pockets of civilization. Cargo is better than The Dead.

The Road (2009): A family drama, set in a post-apocalyptic world. A father and his son are travelling in the wilderness.

Train to Busan (2016): A family is trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Train to Busan is a very different movie from Cargo, though, mostly due to the fast zombies in that one.

TV series

The Walking Dead (2010-2021-): A family is trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse. The Walking Dead has more action, and slightly more upbeat about humanity than Cargo.

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Frequently asked questions - Cargo, movie (2017)

Is the Cargo film based on a book or comics?

No, Cargo is not based on either books or comics. It is based on a short movie, Cargo (2013).

Is Cargo a zombie movie?

Yes, Cargo (2017) can be considered a zombie movie, although I consider it a post-apocalyptic family drama, set during a zombie pandemic.

What is the disease in the Cargo movie?

In the Cargo (2017) movie, there's a disease that takes over the host in 48 hours, turning them into mindless rabid people.

Is Cargo a sad movie?

Yes, Cargo (2017) can be considered a sad movie, although I consider the original short film better in this aspect.

Why do they bury their heads in Cargo?

In Cargo, the infected (zombies) bury their heads into the ground, probably in order to be able to rest. They seem to be sensitive to light and sounds, and this helps them filter those out.

Is there a post credit scene in Cargo?

No, there's no post credit scene in Cargo.

Where can I watch Cargo online? Is Cargo available on Netflix? Is Cargo on Amazon?

As of 2021.06.14, Cargo is available on Netflix.

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Resources - Cargo, movie (2017)

Official

Cargo (on Archive.org): Official website. (2021: The website is offline.)

Information

IMDB: Cargo (I) (2017): Database article.

WikiPedia: Cargo (2017 film): Database article.

Letterboxd: Cargo 2017: Database article.

Rotten Tomatoes: Cargo 2018: Database article.

Reviews with no spoilers - Cargo film (2017)

Paul Brian McCoy (for Psycho Drive-in): EZMM 2019 Day 9.1: Cargo (2018): Review article of the movie, with no spoilers.

Reviews with no spoilers - Cargo film (2017) - Turkish

Müge İbrikçi Baran (for Dark Movies): Cargo (2017) (in Turkish): Review article of the movie, with no spoilers, in Turkish.

English version by Google Translate

Reviews with spoilers - Cargo film (2017)

Tony (for Reel Time Flicks): Cargo (2018): Review article of the Cargo movie, with spoilers.

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Buying the product - Cargo, movie (2017)

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Have you seen the Cargo film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!

 

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