The zombie drama “Cargo” has more in common with Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” than with “Night of the Living Dead.” Co-directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (the latter of whom wrote the screenplay) sacrifice some tension with their more character-based approach, but the cumulative effect is emotionally powerful.
Martin Freeman stars as Andy, a husband and father who fails in his attempt to move his family to a secure military outpost in plague-ravaged Australia. When his wife dies and he gets infected, Andy has 48 hours to get their baby daughter to safety, before he turns savage.
“Cargo” is adapted from Howling and Ramke’s 2013 short film of the same name, which used this same premise to set up a deeply moving climactic image, illustrating the lengths parents will go to protect their kids. The feature-length version stretches this idea into an actual plot, during which Andy encounters dangerous opportunists, desperate souls and a young Aboriginal girl on a mission.
The movie fails to make the best use of Andy’s two-day deadline, which should add a greater sense of urgency than it does. Still, Freeman’s natural Everyman quality keeps the stakes clear and relatable.
The film’s eventful enough to support multiple metaphorical readings, but keeps coming back to the poignant idea that moms and dads everywhere — apocalypse or not — just want to know their children will be OK after they’re gone.
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: Streaming on Netflix