Monday, August 16, 2010

TADFF Review: Cargo


In the 23rd Century Earth is uninhabitable and the majority of civilians live in space stations. With both disease and terrorism running rampant, it seems the only safe place left to live is the planet Rhea. Laura Portmann (Anna Katharina Schwabroh), a young medic, longs to go to Rhea so that she can be reunited with her sister. In order to save up enough money to travel to Rhea, Laura takes an 8-month position on a ship that is transporting construction material to Sector 42. Laura and the rest of the ship’s small crew soon realize that they are not alone, and whatever lurks in the shadows is killing them off one by one.

Cargo is the first feature length science fiction film to be made in Switzerland. The film took eight years to make and the budget was a paltry two million dollars. The fascinating thing about Cargo is that, despite the miniscule budget, the film looks far better than a lot of big budget productions. Sure there are scenes here and there that were clearly computer generated, but the overall product is amazingly slick and stylish. While the premise of the film may sound a lot like the film Alien, Cargo is far more a kin to Duncan Jones’ Moon. The film is more of a cerebral thriller that will have you second guessing who the real heroes are in life.

Director Ivan Engler takes his time to build up the tension, by time the film kicks into high gear you have a great grasp of both the character and the world they inhabit. It was very important that Engler found actors who had enough chemistry to convey the uneasy relationship between Laura and Samuel Decker (Martin Rapold), the air marshal assigned to the ship. Schwabroh and Rapold sizzle on screen as they both gave great performances. Their interactions not only raised the romantic tension in the film, but the overall suspense as well. Similar to Portmann, you are not quite sure what Decker’s motives are in the beginning. Even when things begin to unfold you are constantly questioning who Portmann can really trust? For a film that only cost two million dollars to make, Cargo is far more intelligent and suspenseful than most of the more costly films you see in theatres today.

Grade: A-/B+

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