CARGO in this 2017 post-apocalypse item from Australia is a baby, carried on her dad’s back after his wife has succumbed to infection from a zombie bite—and we all know how you deal with the zom-chomped. Lugging most of the load in the 105 minute picture is Martin Freeman, doing a stand-up job as the literally plagued father.

After an epidemic has decimated the population, ‘Andy Rose’ (Freeman) is determined to see that his infant daughter gets to safety, but the already challenging landscape is now roamed not only by the diseased & quasi-deceased but by the odd nasty survivalist, free from authority or mercy. Help may come from ‘Thoomi’ (Simone Landers), a teenage Aboriginal girl separated from her clan. 

Co-directed by Ben Howling & Yolanda Ranke, from Ranke’s script, the film keeps the carnage aspects to a minimum, and this time the protagonist is not a gun-toting, head-shooting instant-slayer typical of the undying genre of the Undead, but instead just a regular guy, out of his element, grief-stricken, and wounded, the clock ticking against him.  Landers is appealing and compelling, the baby (‘played’ by several) is cute, and the forbidding but captivating South Australia scenery is spectacular. Beyond love’s drive to survive, the undercarriage to this vehicle infers the poisoning of the land (fracking, chemicals, etc.) is the spigot that spewed the scourge. Some critics took issue with what would seem the obvious trope of having the indigenous folk (or at least their modern-day descendants) best able to survive an apocalyptic situation. In this case this an often-justified whack at p.c. infused moralism (I do it a lot) is off-target: if anyone is possbily going to make it through the coming centuries of blight and scavenging it won’t be ignorant pot-gutted creeps toting assault rifles but more likely those tattered remnants of tribal & clan societies who’ve managed to hold onto age-old survival skills and a kinship with the elements. The rest of us?  Dead mankind walking.

With Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter and Caren Pistorius. Among the Aboriginals is David Gulpilil, familiar from Walkabout, The Last Wave and Rabbit-Proof Fence.

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