Cargo, directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, is yet another example that, while Netflix’s original TV output is more than reliable, its original movies leave A LOT to be desired. In Cargo, there seems to be a lack of drive – with Martin Freeman’s character feeling like he’s just wandering around the Australian outback looking for a plot. The film also places itself within a genre (the zombie genre) that is oversaturated and lacks originality – the latter being something that Cargo now adds to. I continue to do these reviews of Netflix films hoping… waiting for a really good one to come along. So, let’s make our way into another review, where I lament that lack of quality that is coming from one of the biggest streaming services out there.
The film takes place in Australia where an epidemic has spread across the country. What are pretty much zombies (though the film never specifically says the word) are now everywhere and surrounded by them are Andy – played by Martin Freeman – his baby daughter, Josie – played by Natasha Wanganeen – and Thoomi – played by Simone Landers. Andy only has 48 hours left before he is overcome by an infectious bite and so must find somewhere or someone safe to leave his infant child with.
With how immediately forgettable this film is, I’m quite tempted to just rail on the fact that Netflix continues to put out original movies that are sorely lacking in quality and are almost never worth insisting that people see them. But I suppose I should talk about the film a little bit before I do that – because I fully intend on doing that!
For me, Cargo felt like a film that struggled to ever find a meaningful direction, and I think the main cause of this issue is that the film doesn’t do a great job of pulling you into an engaging film. It starts off by not directly stating it’s a zombie film and such a decision would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that the marketing for the film – including the header image on Netflix when you put your mouse over the film – give away that fact that the film has zombies in it. So right off the bat, any tension or intrigue is taken out of the film. Now, that’s more a problem on Netflix’s side and less the fault of the filmmakers, but it still detracts from the initial feelings that the film tries to elicit.
From there it introduces us to some pretty bland characters – characters who never really grow or become people who I was interested by. Even with the acting chops of Martin Freeman – an actor who I really like and always enjoy the little nuances he brings to a performance – I still didn’t discover a character who I was engaged by. Across the board, there isn’t anyone who stands out or adds something that spices things up.
And perhaps my main issue with how the film started off: was that its inciting incident – the moment that kickstarted Andy’s desperate journey to find someone/somewhere safe for his baby daughter – came from a monumentally dumb moment by a seemingly smart character. You have characters who are surrounded by zombies. They are aware that danger could be right around the corner and their main priority is protecting their daughter, yet Kay – played by Susie Porter – a mother in a dangerous environment and with a helpless baby to protect – wanders onto an abandoned boat for seemingly no necessary reason and gets bitten by a zombie hidden in a cupboard.
As it was happening, I was screaming out with befuddlement, wondering what she could possibly be thinking. Why would she leave the safety of her house boat and wander onto this abandoned boat and risk everything?! From there on, I was pretty much not on board with the film.
When you’re inciting incident is so dumb and continuing on from that point characters continue to make decisions that defy any logical sense, it becomes really hard to care about what is happening. And it doesn’t help that the film – as it goes on – lacks any sort of tension or hint of interesting content. Andy wanders around with seemingly no clear direction of where he wants to go and happens to keep stumbling upon things that might help him or might not. It all resulted in a film that bored me and had me shifting the mouse so I could look to see how much longer I had left to watch.
The unfortunate thing about Cargo is that from a technical standpoint, it’s not a badly made film. Some scenes were framed in a way that information or impending danger was communicated to the audience before the characters saw them, which made for some moments of heightened stress. Also, the zombies were completely practical (no ‘World War Z clumps of CGI) and the props and make-up applied to the various zombie extras was good.
It’s just that nothing interesting, new, or original was done with the genre. I was never surprised by anything in the film. The zombies acted like zombies; the situations that characters found themselves in weren’t that interesting – there was no added element that caught my attention as being clever or new. It was all pretty bog-standard, which only added to my disinterest in Cargo.
What Cargo is: is yet another film that falls under the umbrella of kinda decent but a largely forgettable Netflix original film. I’ve certainly enjoyed some of the films that have ended up on Netflix, but I can only think of a couple that really standout as something special; something that I would implore people to add to their list and watch. A lot of what comes to Netflix feels like the scripts that were left at the bottom of an executives filing cabinet. The films that didn’t really warrant being made, but because they were cheap, Netflix hoovered them up and started pumping them out. It’s apparently a quantity over quality mantra over at Netflix when it comes to their films. It’s frustrating because their TV offerings are pretty damn great. If only that were the case with their movies.
So yeah, I DON’T recommend, Cargo. I can’t think of any substantial reason why I would suggest watching this film. I suppose you could chuck it on if you were really desperate for something to watch, but other than that, I got nothing. I feel I say this a lot when reviewing/recommending Netflix films: but despite it being so readily available, that still doesn’t mean you should watch it!
What are your thoughts on the quality of films that Netflix is putting out and if you sat trough it, what did you think of Cargo? Let me know in the comments section down below. If you’re feeling kind, would you consider following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – that would be great! I’ll bring things to a close now by saying thanks to you for taking the time to read my review; I hope you liked it enough to return.