Cargo [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (9th October 2018).
The Film

"Cargo" (2017)

A contagious disease that turns people into zombie-like beings has spread across Australia and left the survivors scavenging for whatever they can find to survive. Andy (played by Martin Freeman) and his wife Kay (played by Susie Porter) along with their baby Rosie are traveling on a riverboat headed toward a military base - a location of possible refuge. But while on a hunt for some food and supplies, Kay is bitten, which according to reports she has 48 hours until she turns into a "viral". Andy must make the difficult decision to leave Kay behind and take Rosie to a safe location. Along the way, they meet Thoomi (played by Simone Landers), a young aboriginal girl who is surviving with her infected father. From there on, their journeys continue in a newfound direction. But while the Virals seem like the biggest issue, the paranoid surviving humans are the real issue for survival...

In 2013, directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke made "Cargo" for the Tropfest short film festival. The seven minute short about a father and baby daughter trying to survive a zombie apocalypse was a finalist at the festival, and when posted online the short took in more than 13 million views on YouTube, and the short about "virals" became... well, viral. Incredibly emotional with no dialogue and a very short runtime, it attracted investors to finance a feature length version.

The feature length version of "Cargo" follows many rules of the Zombie horror genre. They are not called "zombies" but in the film are given the title of "virals". They are mindless but with a keen sense of smell for living tissue and feed off of blood and fresh meat. A bite from one is contagious and will turn the bitten into one in a matter of time. But while it follows the rules of the genre, the tone of the film is closer to that of "The Road", the post-apocalyptic drama of a father and child surviving alone in a grim world. Most of the film is not action packed like other zombie films with creative kills and a fast pace, but instead the film is very limited in the number of scenes with the virals, focusing more on the human aspect. The father Andy once bitten has only 48 hours to find a safe haven for his baby daughter, and his journey across the Australian Outback is not only a physical one, but a mental one as well. His slow degradation into becoming a viral leads to nightmares and yearning of flesh. Yet at the same time he faces conflict with the other humans that he comes across, especially with Vic (played by Anthony Hayes) who has a violent and persuasive way of survival, capturing survivors as bait to slay rampant virals and steal their belongings, as well as controlling the area entirely. The film's conflict is internal, with the survivors and their dealings with the desperate situations. In addition, the aboriginal viewpoint is a key to the story that cannot be ignored.

With the scenes of Vic trapping aboriginals in cages for bait is a mirror to the English colonization, genocide, and mistreatment of the indigenous people over the centuries, while also viewing how the white men did not understand their culture and beliefs - being at one with nature and how they treat and help one another. The character of Thoomi deciding to separate from her mother and others so she could somehow take care of her infected father is a brave choice, which also shows her strength and stubbornness, also seen with the person she looks up to most - the elder tribesman Daku (played by David Gulpilil).

Martin Freeman playing an Englishman in Australia is an interesting decision, though it can place the character as an outsider to the dire situation in a foreign land, the casting could have easily been a native Australian in place. But thankfully, Freeman is able to carry the lead very well. Simone Landers as the thirteen year old Thoomi also plays an excellent and difficult role with Grace and as the producers and directors have said, she is bound to have a great career in the future in acting. Natasha Wanganeen who plays Thoomi's mother and David Gulpilil give closer to cameo appearances but their minor scenes on screen are extremely powerful even if limited. Caren Pistorius as the prisoner "wife" is excellent as well as the menacing Anthony Hayes with his masochistic character. There are excellent performances throughout even if the dialogue is not heavy and the pace is on the slower side of the zombie horror genre.

While the pacing may turn away some horror fans, the film can still fall prey to genre cliches. The internal conflicts between the characters, the stereotypical characters, and some of the decision-making processes are inevitable. Also some coincidences are a little too convenient - how they happen to run into Vic at the tunnel, how the the person Vic captured happened to be who Andy ran into earlier. On the brighter side the look of the film is absolutely breathtaking, showcasing the rural landscape beautifully, lit brightly even with its dark tone overall. The music score is sparse but very eerie with its use of ambient noise, giving heightened suspense in many scenes. "Cargo" is a standout visually and aurally, and is a unique addition to the zombie genre of films, especially with the ending image, which will not be spoiled but as the filmmakers have said, the ending image was the first to be conceived.

The film had its premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival on October 6, 2017 to positive reviews, followed by a screening at the London Film Festival. Netflix acquired the global rights to the film debuting it worldwide on May 18 2018 on its streaming service. Umbrella Entertainment gives the film a Blu-ray and DVD release, the first in the world, with some lengthy supplements to compliment the film.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Shot digitally in the gorgeous outdoor locations around rural Australia, the brightly lit production looks fantastic, with the overall brown hue looking wonderful. Detail is crisp, colors are stable, and there are no issues of errors in the transfer. It's an excellent transfer with nothing troublesome to report.

The film's runtime is 103:36.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The original 5.1 audio track also sounds great. The dialogue is almost always centered, with voices sounding very clear and intelligible, from the baby cries to the slight moans of the virals. In addition the ambient music score uses the surrounds in effectively though not overbearing. There are no issues of errors within the audio, giving a stellar experience.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font. The subtitles are well timed and easy to read.

Extras

"Cargo: Shaping a Fragile Future" featurette (17:24)
This featurette includes an interview with the directors as they discuss about the initial 2013 short film and it's journey expanding to a feature, the zombie genre, the importance of Aboriginal culture, and the casting choices. There are also some clips from the film presented.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Cargo: Maternal Combat" featurette (5:48)
Actress Natasha Wanganeen who played the Aboriginal mother talks about her character, drawing on the strength of her real life experience as a mother, her Aboriginal roots and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interviews with Cast & Crew (42:03)
Presented are interviews with actor Martin Freeman, producer Samatha Jennings, directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, actress Simone Landers, costume designer Heather Wallace, hair and make-up designer Beverly Freeman, prosthetic designer Larry Van Duynhoven, and production designer Jo Ford as they are presented with a series of prompt questions. Discussed are about the characters, the story, each person's attraction to the project, some behind the scenes stories, creating the Virals. From 27:50 onward is B-roll footage from the production.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Q&A - May 9 2018, Melbourne GPO (28:59)
This on stage Q&A with Natasha Wanganeen. Yolanda Ramke, and Ben Howling has some more interesting behind the scenes stories, including Wanganeen seeing Simone Landers like a version of her young self in the film "Rabbit-Proof Fence" (2002), in which Wanganeen played a teen in crisis, the fake baby that was made for Freeman that wound up being heavier than the actual baby, the fairly small $5 million budget, and more. Questions are taken from both the moderator as well as audience members. There are some sound issues as the sound is picked up from the speakers in the theater rather than from the mics directly.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Tropfest 2013 Short (7:17)
"Cargo" the original 2013 short is presented. The feature film is effective, but the original 2013 dialogue free original short is an incredibly powerful work that stands on its own.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (2:16)
A good trailer, though the volume is too loud and distorted here on the Blu-ray.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Packaging

The cover art is reversible, with the opposite side having the same artwork minus the Australian ratings logo.
In addition, the artwork states region B, but the disc itself is region ALL.

Overall

"Cargo" is a slow burning meditative work in the ever present zombie genre, which relies on character and emotional challenges rather than gore and action. It does fall under some cliches that are inevitable to the genre but the core piece is very effective. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray give great video and audio with worthy supplements making this very recommended.

The Film: B+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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