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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cargo is a character-driven zombie movie about a young father who is frantically trying to save his baby daughter. The film takes place over a two-day period at the height of a pandemic in which zombies roam the Australian Outback. The film is charged with heightened suspense and narrow escapes. While the emphasis isn't on the violent episodes but on the plight of the hero and his child, viewers can expect plenty of scares, killings, and bloody wounds and enough gore to sell the premise. Characters are shot (some at point-blank range), stabbed, impaled, and burned. Zombies attack and feast on the healthy. One particularly evil fellow cages healthy humans as bait for the zombies, which he then systematically kills. Language throughout is rough -- one use of "c--t" and multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Still, there are strong messages about parental love and responsibility and more subtle ones about the heavy price indigenous peoples and other innocents continue to pay as the world moves forward.
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What's the story?
A pandemic is wreaking havoc in the Australian outback in CARGO. The virus, transmitted via a bite from an afflicted, undead creature who once was human, overtakes its victim in 48 hours, with increasingly horrific physical symptoms (i.e., convulsions, bodily secretions). At the end of two days, the prey becomes the predator. Andy (Martin Freeman) has the fate of his very young daughter, Rosie (the heartbreakingly adorable Finlay and Nova Sjoberg), in his hands. Against long odds, he must find a safe place for her. His odyssey is filled with narrow escapes from characters including Rosie's stricken mother, the marauding predators, and a crazed and malicious white settler who has his own agenda. His only solace, and perhaps only hope, is a young Aboriginal girl, Thoomi (Simone Landers), who, in an ironic reversal, has been trying to save her suffering father. Fiercely bonding in a mutual desire to save Rosie, Andy and Thoomi face the impossible together.
Is it any good?
By making a father-daughter journey the core of this story, and by using horror tropes of the genre solely to impede them, the directors have made an original, highly satisfying film. Martin Freeman, so often a featured player, gets a chance to shine in an "everyman" part that allows him to coo, convulse, and combust all within seconds. And Ben Howling and Yolande Ramke, who directed the script by Ramke, carefully set up the "rules" for the affliction, and then stick with those rules, however fantastical they may be. The story is set in modern day; other than vehicles, a clever demonstration of that is the Michael Jordan #23 shirt worn by one of the Aboriginal warriors. Best of all, this story about parental responsibility and love, with just enough social commentary to make it relevant, provides audiences with an opportunity to make a weighty emotional investment in a genre not usually noted for that.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Cargo. Which scenes were most disturbing to you? At what age do you think this kind of violence is OK? Why is it essential for families to understand the impact of violence on kids?
Which character strengths were emphasized in Andy's efforts to save his child? Which character strengths were emphasized in Thoomi's story?
What do you think makes movies about zombies, vampires, and other monsters so popular? What emotions do such films tap into? Why do audiences like to be scared and/or grossed out? When is it too much?
- On DVD or streaming: May 18, 2018
- Cast: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Anthony Hayes
- Directors: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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