If Wikipedia is to be believed, Cargo is Switzerland’s first ever science fiction film. If true, hats off to them because this is an excellent and thought provoking film that has some visually captivating effects that belies its miniscule $4 million budget.
Set in the far future, Earth has ceased to be a habitable planet for humans, wrecked by a collapsed eco-system. The human race now live in cramped quarters on space stations that orbit other planets. If they work hard and raise enough money, then they can pay for a trip to Rhea, a newly terraformed planet that a select few humans get to live on. It is a paradise as we can see from the video messages relayed from the lucky few who live there.
One such person striving to make it to Rhea is Doctor Laura Portmann, whose sister Ariane sends her video messages, encouraging her to reunite there. Laura snaps up an opportunity to work as a doctor on an industrial spaceship travelling to Station #42. The money is good and should help her pay for the journey to Rhea.
The crew consists of five members: Captain Lacroix, Second-in-Command Lindbergh, Communications Officer Yoshida, Bald Alternative Guy Prokoff and Old Man Vespucci. Because this isn’t an American sci-fi film, there is no demolitions expert on board. We do however, get a space marshall in the form of the rugged and emphatically bearded Sam Decker, who is there to protect them in case of a terrorist attack (really).
The crew go into cryogenic sleep and take turns being awakened to perform shift work for the mission. When Portmann works her shift, she becomes spooked by what she believes is a stowaway aboard the ship. She wakes the Captain and together with Marshall Decker, they investigate whats in the cargo hold. As they search for the stowaway, one of them falls to their death in suspicious circumstances. From there, the crew aboard the ship must ensure their own survival while trying to figure out who is sabotaging their mission. And whats with the mysterious contents in the cargo?
Cargo is a terrific science fiction film that embodies the best qualities of the classics in the genre. In many ways it is comparable to Ridley Scott’s Alien with its social commentary on corporations as well as its detailed and believable portrayal of life as a crew member aboard a transporter ship which can be rather mundane despite the fantastic science fiction setting.
The visual effects of the film are absolutely terrific and work well within the budget that they have. When you have $4 million dollars to cover the cost of the entire film, using effective lighting is critical to masking any potentially dodgy looking sets and Cargo has some carefully constructed cinematography and lighting that make the film look the best it possibly can be.
Perhaps the only shortcoming with Cargo is that the leads are not quite as captivating and engaging as the story and special effects. At the heart of Cargo is a slightly underwhelming relationship between two of the characters and when the time comes at the end of the film for one of them to make a great sacrifice, its doesn’t quite carry the emotional impact you would hope for.
Regardless, this is still an interesting and well produced science fiction film and well worth tracking down.