In a desperate bid to outrun a violent pandemic, Andy and Kay have holed up on a houseboat with their one-year-old daughter, Rosie. Their protected river existence is shattered by a violent attack, which sees Kay tragically die and Andy infected. Left with only 48 hours before he transforms into one of the creatures they have fought so long to evade, Andy sets out on a precarious journey to find a new guardian for his child.
Directed by: Ben Howling
, Yolanda Ramke
. Starring: Martin Freeman
, Anthony Hayes
, Susie Porter
, Caren Pistorius
, Kris McQuade
, Natasha Wanganeen
, Bruce R. Carter
, Simone Landers
, David Gulpilil
, Joesiah Amos
, Ella Barter
, Ikee Blackman
, Latrelle Coulthard
Simply put, CARGO is a zombie picture whose focus is the emotional and interpersonal relationships of the characters surrounding a father's desperate attempts to get his daughter to safety in the context of the inhospitable Australian outback. It's a race against the clock as the father himself is infected and he will soon be the greatest threat of all to his own daughter.
Relative to most of the traditional criteria whereby movies are adjudged, CARGO would rate fairly high. The filmography is excellent, the acting is above average, the movie has a few "name brand" actors that improve the movie by their contributions, the filming locations are eye-catching, good music, and so on.
Additionally, the overall story arc isn't bad: a determined fight of a father to save his infant daughter in the face of tall odds and desperate circumstances were almost everything, including the father himself, constitutes an increasing threat.
CARGO even has the politically correct angle promulgating the notion that white males are the worst monsters of all, even more deadly than zombies, which so many people seem to find so attractive. Personally, I couldn't be more sick of it, but it must be popular with audiences since it's practically ubiquitous to every movie made nowadays. So there's that.
Where CARGO falls down, and very badly, are the individual plot elements that set the movie on its forward path. CARGO relies on the tired old tropes of characters behaving in unrealistic ways and with extreme stupidity in order to get the plot ball rolling.
The 3 primary characters, as the movie begins, are a husband and wife and their infant daughter. They are living on a houseboat-like boat traveling down a medium-size river within the overall context of a zombie postapocalypse. On the face of it, it seems like a pretty good set up. Their boat-on-a-river situation keeps them safely away from the zombies even to the point that as viewers we're not even aware that there ARE zombies until well into the movie since our protagonists are so well separated from them we don't see them.
Shortly after the movie begins, our protagonists encounter a wrecked yacht and drop anchor nearby. And then both the mother and father, in fairly rapid succession, become unaccountably stupid. First the father rows over to the wrecked yacht, apparently without informing his wife, for the purposes of scavenging for supplies. Why would anyone ever do that? He doesn't even seem to be armed. If anything happened to him there would be no one available to back him up nor would his wife even know where he was or what had happened to him or where to start looking for him. Who would ever behave in this way given this zombie apocalypse situation?
Subsequently discovering the nifty things her husband has returned with, the wife decides to go on her own little reconnaissance mission to the yacht, ALSO without informing her spouse and ALSO without any weapons. And, completely predictably, she gets chomped by a zombie, initiating the chain of events that causes the story to unfold and to create the dire circumstances the father must overcome for the course of the balance of the picture.
The first the husbandfather finds out about what his wife has been doing and what has happened to her is by noticing the collection of bloody footprints left by his wife after she has returned to the houseboat; the communication between the married couple is THAT bad and they are THAT willing to expose themselves to unnecessary deadly risks. The whole emotive point of the movie is the desperate lengths to which parents will go to save their offspring when, in reality, the greatest threat to the infant in THIS movie is the astounding stupidity and incomparable incompetence of the baby's own parents.
In another scene, the husband, his badly wounded and almost certainly dying wife, and the all-important infant daughter are driving along an outback dirt road in hopes of bringing the wife to medical attention (although we already know that it is unlikely to be of any use), and the husband pays so little attention to driving the vehicle that he is "surprised" by a zombie wandering in the middle of the road and he reacts by swerving OFF the road and directly into a huge tree, thoroughly destroying the critically important vehicle and running his wife through and through with about a 6 inch diameter tree branch. After taking a good look at the complete mess he's made, he promptly passes out, giving his wife just enough time to make the zombie transition so that when he wakes up she can chomp him a good one to start the clock running down on his attempts to save the infant before he himself turns.
Who in their right mind in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, tasked with trying to save his own poor wife and infant daughter, behaves in this way? Even if the husband wasn't sure it was a zombie in the middle of the road, his priority was of course his wife and child, not some idiot in the middle of the road. Why would he risk the survival of himself and everyone he cares for for the benefit of some stranger who might be a zombie and was stupid enough to the standing in the middle-of-the-road?
These absolutely idiotic actions by the protagonists are literally the exact plot points that create the entire course of the movie. In other words, literally everything that happens in the movie is entirely founded on phenomenal stupidity and utterly unbelievable behavior.
For me, these points ruin the entire picture. Why wasn't the same skill and expertise exhibited with the mundane and technical aspects of the picture also applied to the story itself?
Review by S. Soma from the Internet Movie Database.