Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: CARGO

A couple, Andy and Kay, with toddler Rosie steer their houseboat down a river that could be from a tourist bureau poster. A conversation later we learn that they are staying on the boat as a means of survival. On land an epidemic has spread like fire, rendering the infected into flesh hungry zombies. There is a treatment kit on the boat that includes a suicide device. They pass a similar young family frolicking on the bank. The worldless communication between the two parties ends in the father on the shore revealing his pistol.

Coming across the wreck of a yacht Andy takes a boat over and finds a trove of food, wine and other goodies which buy the family some time.While aboard, he notices a strange shifting sound in the cabin and sees that the sliding door has moved a few centimetres and beats a nimble retreat. Kay is overjoyed at the bounty and wonders if Andy didn't find a razor as well to restore him to at least the appearance of civilisation. While he is sleeping she makes her own sortie to the wreck, finds a razor, and is bitten by the thing in the cabin. She is infected and dons the forty-eight hour timer from the kit. Now they are on a clock.

While this film features a varispeed plot and some things are more spoilable than others I'll leave the synopsis there. Besides, this really is a lot more than the zombie fad outing that it might appear to be. The struggle to reach treatment or at least care for the daughter takes the characters into a kind of Pilgrim's Progress of good and evil in a still recognisable contemporary Australia, forging ahead through constant grief through to a credible racial reconciliation. All of that without grandstanding or the song from the Qantas commercial.

As with the best zombie stories the metaphor is high but only so high that it can survive incursions of the threat. George Romero, who retooled the sub-genre forever with Night of the Living Dead, removed the supernatural element completely to concentrate on the Great Society issues of 1968 America. He revisited it at the end of the '70s to show us consumerism triumphing over death in Dawn of the Dead and so on. Zombies make great vehicles for themes. Chief among these is survival itself but can admit of much else like the compelling presence of race in Australian culture. This is touched by the repugnant profiteer and his zombie traps with live bait and the resourcefulness of a displaced first people turning to long obscured skills to prosecute their survival.

And here the zombies are kept a little west of the central infection and how changes its victims morally as well as physically, allowing each to witness the erosion of their civilisation and then humanity. The infection discharges a sticky amber goo from the wounds which often resembles honey or tree resin as though the remaining richness of the human drips from the degenerating husk.

Martin Freeman takes what must have rested on the page as goodness and finds an understated heroism in it. He is given support  by Rosie Porter who again shows us complexity from a cause and effect part. Newcomer Simone Landers owns her part of the screen rendering dialogue that at times seems lifted from an old Adventures of the Sea Spray episode into natural credibility. And veteran David Gulpilil needs to do little more than gaze for us to know his sagacity comes from the earth's core.

I was impressed by this film's careful helming, avoiding the worst of the sub-genre's cliches and nurturing the warmth in the struggle and the chills in the decision not to struggle. The cinematography is given the fierce palate of the outback and heated by a strong score that mixes electronics with indigenous tonality.

This is worth a cinema outing. It feels as though it's come from nowhere. Don't let it go back there.

No comments:

Post a Comment