General Release 2010
112 minutes approx
Laura Portmann -
Anna Katharina Schwabroh
Samuel Decker -
Directed by -
Ivan Engler & Ralph Etter
Written by -
Arnold Bucher, Ivan Engler, Patrik Steinmann & Thilo Röscheisen
By 2267 the Earth has become so polluted that the entire population has left the planet and now live in overcrowded, disease-ridden spacestations. A few lucky, or rich, ones escape to the paradise planet Rhea, so far away that messages take four years to get there. Dr Laura Poertmann signs up for the eight year round trip to Station 47 on cargo vessel Kassandra in order to earn enough money to join her sister on Rhea. The crew sleep in cryo chambers, taking eight month watches alone. Laura's shift, though, makes her believe that she is not alone and before long the crew are dying and the secrets behind the Kassandra's true cargo and destination are revealed.
CARGO closed the 2010 Sci-Fi London Film Festival and it's easy to see why the organisers thought that it was worth the accolade. Made on a small budget, the film looks fantastic with an epic sense of scale in the opening sequences of spacestations in Earth orbit and the cavernous cargo bay. The Kassandra is the kind of spaceship where the lights don't actually light very much asnd whole decks are full of dripping water. Fluorescent lights flicker into life so often you wonder if they remembered to pay the electric bill and nothing seems to work properly. The makers have certainly seen ALIEN.
Against this background plays out a story that is bursting with ideas, possibly too many ideas for the film to pull into a completely coherent screenplay. It starts out as a scary 'there's something in the shadows' story that morphs into a paranoid 'one of us is the bad guy' stand off THE THING style and then changes to a 'peril in space' and action movie as two spacesuited survivors try to destroy a transmitter. There are some bravura stand out moments (such as the moving of the cargo pods and the race against the closing cargo bay door), but also longeurs that are filled in with stylistic camerawork rather than a tightening up of the storyline or the cut of the film.
The performances are perfectly fine, though it's hard to tell when the acting is in a foreign language (in this case German), though the development of the love story between Decker and Portmann is a bit lumpy and the minor characters of Vespucci and Prokoff make major decisions with little or not obvious justification.
The big revelation about the ship's cargo, destination and connection to Rhea won't come as a surprise to many people since it is fairly obvious from the start, but anyone who hasn't seen THE MATRIX might not see it coming.
The film rambles on a bit, trying to make sure that it gets all of its ideas out there, and the earlier sections are certainly the more controlled and interesting, but it falls between all its ideas because it can't make up its mind what it wants to be.
Compared with the recent Hollywood effort PANDORUM, this much smaller budgeted film is far more interesting and compelling, though the action sequences are not so slick.
If CARGO had decided on its tone earlier and stuck to one then it would have been a better film, but there is still much to admire and enjoy about it, not least because you have no idea where it is going to go next.Top
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