Based on the gorgeous 2013 short film by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, Cargo is a different look at life during the zombie apocalypse. Martin Freeman is Andy, a father desperately searching the Australian outback for a safe place to raise his infant daughter Rosie after Rosie’s mother is turned.
The search becomes more urgent after Andy is also infected with the virus, and has 48 hours of humanity to find the flourishing Aboriginal tribe he’s been told about. With his last breaths being counted down on his wristwatch, he sets out on foot with Rosie strapped to his back, obliviously cooing from a baby carrier.
Cargo is definitely a zombie film, but there’s enough different about this one that it could trick zombie haters into watching and possibly enjoying it. Even with the vast, overbearing landscapes, the film still feels quite intimate.
Through following the struggles of a dad and his child, both of whom seem ill-equipped to survive the outback, let alone hordes of the undead, we get a dystopian drama that focuses more on the internal struggles, like putting loved infected loved ones out of their misery and accepting that the odds of survival are low, than the external ones. Cargo is in no way an action film, which singlehandedly makes it quite refreshing.
The fact that Andy isn’t really a hero also grounds the story in reality more than we’re used to from a zombie story. He’s just a regular man that things keep happening to. He’s not extraordinary; he simply reacts how most parents would when faced with his particular hardships.
Though it’s telling a fresh take on an old story, Cargo occasionally falls into tired tropes of the genre. Zombies bringing out the worst in people is a big one here, as demonstrated by an unsettling scene in which a gun-toting white man traps indigenous people in cages as a way of attracting zombies for target practice. However, there’s more than enough new here to prove that there’s always room for more exploration of the genre.