Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

It is sometime in the future and humans have pretty much toasted the planet earth with disease, acid rain, global warming and all kinds of other bad human type stuff.  No surprise there since I don’t think I’ve seen a futuristic Science Fiction movie in which the earth is lush and green and everybody’s happy.  One of you ambitious screenwriters out there should think about scripting a movie based on that. Nonetheless, the people of earth live on space stations and the like, and they live on these things under terrible, terrible conditions. It’s not looking good. But in this bleak future there is a place called Rhea that is lush and green and where everybody’s happy. If you were one of the lucky ones who won the Rhea Lotto when they first terraformed the planet, this is where you are privileged to live, but now you just need money to make your Rhea dream come true. This is where we meet Dr. Laura Portman (Anna-Katharina Schwabroh) who has taken a job on a transport freighter in order to make enough loot so she can be reunited with her beloved sister who won the Rhea Lotto many years ago. It’s going to be an interesting ride for Dr. Laura Portman. The movie is called ‘Cargo’ and I’m told it’s the first Science Fiction film out of Switzerland. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I can tell you that ‘Cargo’ is an impressive achievement on many levels.

The trip is a simple one consisting of ferrying some building materials to an outpost to make space travel easier. It’s going to take four years to get there and four years to get back with most of the crew resting in cryostasis, with one member staying awake during eight months shifts to monitor things. There is a little issue going on in this future as there is a terrorist group blowing up stuff because they are opposed to the technology that has taken over the human way of life. Of course it seems to us that this technology is the only thing keeping the humans alive, but who are we to argue with terrorist lunatics?

We mention these terrorist because now every ship, even simple rickety transports such as The Kassandra, requires the presence of a Sky Marshall, and this introduces us to Officer Samuel Decker (Martin Rappold) who will be monitoring things on this particular mission.

The problems begin on this mission during Laura’s shift out of cryo. She hears strange things, sees strange things and she is convinced that somebody else is running around on this ship. This prompts her to wake up the Captain (Pierre Semler), who is mighty pissed off about this, and along with Officer Decker they begin to investigate. What they discover is that something strange is definitely going on. Now the whole crew is awake trying to find out what is going down on this allegedly simple transport mission.

Whatever is happening, it’s not good. Or maybe it is depending on where you stand in regards to these particular events and corporate control. Just throwing that out there.

Directed by Ivan Engler and Ralph Etter, ‘Cargo’ is an impressive achievement in that the reported budget for this film is reported to be around four million American dollars. That’s insane when you observe what these two gentlemen were able to deliver in a film that looks this good for that relatively tiny amount of coin. Even though it’s apples and oranges, it’s too bad that American filmmakers haven’t been able to achieve this same level of ambitious cinematic sophistication on such a small amount of money. We stand up and applaud their achievements.

However, I think we all are aware that creating an impressive looking movie doesn’t necessarily make for a good movie and as far as that goes in regards to ‘Cargo’, it is an interesting, if not a somewhat flawed, movie watching experience.

Since many of us are going into this film not knowing exactly what it’s about, it is very engaging to watch it develop. At first it feels as if there’s some kind of creature on board the ship, ala ‘Alien’, with the directors making maximum use of the creaky nature and oppressive sounds that the old vessel puts out. But eventually we get to the real story which more along the lines of a conspiracy of sorts similar to another science fiction movie we can’t mention because it gives away the twist. But the thing about this twist is that it’s revealed halfway through the movie which I think might eliminate it from actually being a twist and just make it a regular old plot point. Nonetheless, we don’t have a mystery any more but instead we have fairly run of the mill action adventure, in space, and this is probably where ‘Cargo’ was the least effective. It also didn’t help that the majority of the plot elements were back loaded into this final act which caused things to get a little jumbled as there were so many different elements to sift through. It’s not overly confusing or complicated or anything along those lines, just unnecessarily busy. Also the movie probably doesn’t hold up all that well to too much post film critical thinking since there are a few plot holes here and there which could spoil the experience, so don’t do that.

But all that being said, I absolutely enjoyed the time I spent watching ‘Cargo’ and I had no idea what the budget was for this movie before I sat down to watch it. The film had atmosphere to burn, some fine performances from the cast and an engaging if not somewhat familiar story arc. If you enjoy watching Science Fiction movies of any type, I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy ‘Cargo’, but I do believe you would be disappointed if you allowed it to pass you by.

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