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Movies The O.D. on Movies

The O.D. on Movies: Cargo (2017)

Rulerofowls and Couch Owl met once again for the Netflix movie report. This week, Couch Owl saw a movie she had her eye on for quite a while now: Cargo, directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, and stars Martin Freeman, Susie Porter, Anthony Hayes, and Simone Landers. This is a remake of the 2013 short film of the same name, written and directed by the same team behind the short film, which we did not see nor heard of before watching the full-length movie.

  • ROW: As I’ve been informed, you chose to watch an appropriate movie for the Halloween-themed article of the week; full of zombies and fake gore! Did it live up to your expectations?
  • CO: Unfortunately, it did not; as always, the intentions were solid and it could have been a really good drama, but the execution was ultimately boring. Just a heads up to people planning to watch this movie on Netflix: This is not a horror movie, although it is categorized as one. This is a dramatic thriller, start to finish, with no real horror elements besides the aforementioned zombies and gore.
  • ROW: Well, nobody sets out to make something bad intentionally—besides Leo Bloom and Max Bialystock! Where did things go wrong for Cargo?
  • CO: First, I want to highlight where things went right for Cargo, before we get to the bad stuff; there’s always merit in recounting things you liked about a movie you did not like. To start with, the casting and acting was pretty spot on: Martin Freeman has made a name for himself as a comedic actor, but his dramatic performances are never nothing short of impressive, while Anthony Hayes does his role pretty well, and I was pleasantly surprised by Simone Landers performance. Moreover, the cinematography is visually beautiful and makes the Australian wilderness look even nicer. I also enjoyed some narrative aspects, such as the very clear environmental messages, some pretty obvious allegories, the emotional strength of the ending, and some of the character work on display is pretty good. Unfortunately, all of these do not overweight the glaring flaws of the movie.
  • ROW: Like what?
  • CO: First of all—and most damning—this movie is BORING; it is not slow-paced nor does it take it’s time to deliver meaningful moments organically. A good, solid hour of this movie is uninteresting, uneventful and ultimately pointless; that’s not to say that no character or story development happens within that one hour, but it is to say that it feels like it drags on forever for developments that otherwise would happen in a scene or two.
  • ROW: Does it matter in the end, though?
  • CO: Not in the way it was meant to; the story has a pretty good hook, and as I’ve said has done a pretty good job with its casting, so when you’re watching Andy (played by the very likeable Martin Freeman) caring and surviving with the cutest baby you’ve seen in a movie this year in a zombie-infested apocalypse, you get involved and care about what happens to them. But everything else this movie tries to set up does not pan out in the end…
  • ROW: So, it does try to set up Andy, his goals, and his character?
FYI: That is a spooooky pumpkin
  • CO: Yeah, but also tries to set up Thoomi with the same ‘protagonist’ treatment, so essentially you have two protagonists with slightly different motivations, limitations, and goals.
  • ROW: Yet, it fails to make them interesting or meaningful; why is that?
  • CO: It has a lot to do with editing, pacing, and the overall writing/plot; editing-wise this is a nightmare! Characters seem more intimate than they should be from their time together, which makes their interactions feel forced; side characters are shown, set up, and then dropped too soon to make them interesting or important. Moreover, the flow cuts from Andy to Thoomi without context or reason for the viewer—which is provided later on, but for the first half of the movie, it is nonsensical and abrupt—which makes the experience very frustrating. Finally, while the plot has a very strong hook and the writing is not bad, the actual events that transpire are boring; it is a lot of Martin Freeman walking with a baby, then encountering a side character, then more walking, etc. It’s not a very entertaining movie, and it’s also not deep enough to derive entertainment from anything else.
  • ROW: It sounds like an unfocused movie…
  • CO: It is unfocused, and it really hurts how fun it is to watch it; for example, there are very clear allegories in the movie, but then there are tons of nods to deeper, character specific stuff that don’t go anywhere interesting or satisfying with it. I did get the sense that a lot of this movie has been cut or reshot, but as is, I didn’t enjoy thinking about this movie or watching it.
  • ROW: So, a beautiful-looking mess?
  • CO: I think mess may be a bit hard, but it is a great-looking movie which could have used either a bit more time to dig deeper into the stuff it wants to talk about, or less time and more focus on fewer things.

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