Tribeca Film Festival 2018 Review: Cargo Is a Powerful Zombie Drama

When it comes to films depicting the zombie apocalypse, we see the same repetitive formula: Survivors must fight for their lives against the undead and try not to get infected. The latest entry in the zombie film genre, Cargo, demonstrates that same formula but puts a whole new spin on it. Yolanda Ramke, who wrote and co-directed the film with Ben Howling, has crafted a story about fatherhood set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse and it is packed with both horror and heart.

Cargo follows the story of Andy (Martin Freeman) and Kay (Susie Porter), an Australian couple trying to outrun a violent pandemic while protecting their one-year old daughter Rosie. However, complications begin to ensue once Kay becomes infected and dies after biting Andy.  With only 48 hours left before he becomes a zombie himself, Andy must find a guardian for Rosie. On his journey, he meets an Aboriginal girl who may provide the key to Rosie’s survival.

This may not be a typical adrenaline-rushed zombie film in the vein of 28 Days Later yet it is still made impactful. One reason is because of its leading performance by Martin Freeman. As a father desperate to save his child, Freeman is immensely likeable, constantly trying to put on a brave face as the clock on his life literally keeps ticking. This is not just one of the best performances of the year but the best performance of Martin Freeman’s career. Also, he and Susie Porter have amazing chemistry as husband and wife. As a result, when Kay gets infected, it becomes quite devastating.

However, amidst all the drama that serves as the story’s center, there are some scares that manage to be thrown in. Particularly, in the beginning where we hear growling noises from zombies hiding in the shadows. They aren’t revealed until later on but when they are first heard and not seen, you’re still left wondering what these things are or what they even look like. The fact that the beginning takes place in daylight helps add to the horror because it shows that these zombies can attack at any time.

As for the rest of the film, there are some slight pacing issues towards the end and there is even a subplot involving a tribe that the Aboriginal girl is a part of that isn’t explored enough. But those minor quibbles still don’t detract from how terrific Cargo is.

Even though Cargo may not possess jump scares or heavy graphic violence despite it being a zombie film, it is still one of the best zombie films in recent memory. It’s anchored by a strong performance by Martin Freeman and offers some powerful commentary on parenthood. This is one not to be missed!

Matthew St.Clair

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