SXSW FILM 2010
By Dave Campbell | April 4, 2010
Directors: Ivan Engler, Ralph Etter
Writers: Arnold Bucher, Ivan Engler, Patrik Steinmann
Starring: Anna Katharina Schwabroh, Martin Rapold, Regula Grauwiller, Yangzorn Brauen, Michael Finger, Pierre Semmler, Claude Oliver Rudolph, Giles Tschudi
Cargo takes place in the year 2267 where Earth has become uninhabitable by man because of environmental deterioration. The human race now populates overcrowded space stations orbiting the Earth as they dream of being able to afford the trip to live on the distant Earth-like planet, Rhea. A terrorist group known as the “Machine Strikers” is threatening the corporate run operations because they question the intentions and truths of what they are being told.
Needing the money in order to fulfill her trip to Rhea, we meet Dr. Laura Portmann (Anna-Katharina Schwabroh), who has signed up with Kuiper Enterprises to take a job on-board the cargo ship Kassandra. Kassandra is on an eight-year journey to reach space station #42 in RH278’s planetary orbit, and return back to Earth’s orbit. On Kassandra, each crew member spends the majority of the automated flight in cryo-sleep while one designated person monitors the operations of the ship for an 8.5 month shift. Additional security personnel lead by Samuel Decker (Martin Rapold) are aboard Kassandra because of the heightened terrorist threat from the “Machine Strikers”.
Dr. Portmann is nearing the end of her lengthy shift when she begins to experience the feeling of being watched and hearing sounds coming from inside the cargo bay of the ship. Due to the situation, Laura’s colleagues are awoken from cryo-sleep so the crew can investigate the dark recesses of the the frigid cargo bay. Dark and grisly discoveries are soon made as deaths begin to surface and trust diminishes while Portmann and Decker uncover the real destination of Kassandra and what secret cargo she carries.
Cargo is the Swiss import from first time feature directors Ivan Engler and Ralph Etter with quite a lot of European sensibilities and Hollywood familiarities. For me Cargo was the 2nd most disappointing film of SXSW FILM 2010 only after Strummerville. A snail’s pace would have been an improvement when it comes to the pacing in Cargo, as the yawn factor was crippling any sense of suspense that the film was attempting to create. Cargo creeps by as if time is standing still through much of the approximate 2 hour run. I’m a fan of the slow and steady Sci-fi films (Moon, Solaris, Alien, Sunshine), but when the character development is lacking and the story is hindered, it’s hard to hold my attention on “mostly” impressive visuals alone.
On that note I can’t walk away from this review without giving credit where credit is due, because the filmmakers really pulled out some fairly spectacular design work with the modest budget of 5 million Swiss francs (Less than 5 million US). The set design and many of the post visuals alone are worth giving it a try to see if this is your kind of Sci-fi, but don’t expect to experience anything new that hasn’t been done before. Unapologetic and unashamed, Cargo borrows from the genre while going backward instead of forward.