Get out your Sci-fi tropes bingo cards
Cargo (2009): 5 out of 10: Get out your Sci-fi tropes bingo cards Cargo is here to play. A Swiss production (Swiss?.. hmm) in German with English subtitles Cargo is a low budget story about a young female doctor (Anna Katharina Schwabroh) who signs on for a eight-year hitch on a cargo ship to pay for her ticket to a new paradise where her sister lives now that the Earth is uninhabitable. Along the way, she learns that all is not as it seems.
The Good: The special effects are superb in Cargo. Not just for a low budget film either. The space station at the beginning resembles The Citadel from Mass Effect and is probably the best realization I have ever seen of a large habitable orbital space platform in film.
The titular cargo ship Kassandra is also well thought out with some nice touches such as a new way to look at hibernation pods and a realistic view of futuristic medicine. The Kassandra seems vaguely familiar though with its large dark metal corridors, flickering lights, large fans that seem to serve no purpose, and water dripping down from the ceiling in rain so constantly that every corridor seems a flooded dark strobe lighted… Oh God, they are on the Nostromo.
The Bad: Yup, check off Alien on that bingo card. The cargo ship Kassandra is such a copy on the Nostromo fans of the Alien franchise probably know their way around it better than the crew. I have forgotten to mention you would have already checked off Blade Runner for the opening space station complete with product placement. (Though due to an unfortunate coincidence between cash grab product placement and the plot of the film I am pretty sure that RE/MAX is the actual villain of this piece.)
It just continues down this trope-filled path. All the signs in English and Kanji as in Blade Runner and later Firefly this despite the crew speaking only German. And then there is The Matrix. Spoiler alert… the second have of the film steals the plot from the Matrix so blatantly it might as well have put everyone in black trench coats. It probably would have helped with all the rain down the dark wet strobe lighted corridors that our characters walk down endlessly for what quickly becomes a leisurely two hours.
The Ugly: Now I am down for a blatant Alien ripoff. Parasite and Forbidden World are some good times at the movies. I can’t describe how well Cargo nails the Nostromo. (except for the cargo hold which is taken wholesale from Cube. Do you have bingo yet?) They have everything. A bearded captain (the late Pierre Semmler), a crew member that we all assume is an android (Yangzom Brauen. She turns out not to be an android which was honestly a disappointment. This character drove my wife crazy as she wore wired headphones the entire film which looks out-of-place in 2019 let alone 2270 when this film is supposed to take place.), they even have the equivalent of a cat in the form of a young Korean girl which our heroine has to go back for. Do you know what they don’t have? A killer Xenomorph stalking the hallways. Which is the reason Alien can get away with people wandering around these dark wet strobe lighted hallways for an hour and this movie cannot.
There are more issues. Having a romance where everyone is clothed and speaking German is a hill to climb under the best of circumstances. Neither Anna Katharina Schwabroh nor her tepid love interest sky marshall Martin Rapold is up to the task. In fact, the acting is a bit of a flat line across the board. The script does no one any favors, and though the stakes get higher our ability to care has long left the building.
In Conclusion: This isn’t a horrible time at the movies by any means. It is well designed and has a great set design and special effects. The film could have used a serious editor to pick up the pace a bit, but its greatest crime is that it has no reason to exist. It tells us nothing new cribbing wholeheartedly from others. Yet it lacks the excitement or even exploitation the best copycats bring to the table. Also, it takes place in 2270 but everyone has handguns, in space, on a cargo ship, without even an Alien to shoot at. Ugh.