Overall Cargo is a reasonably good sci-fi mystery thriller that relies heavily on influences from other movies and occasionally suffers from some significant lapses in logic.
This film begins with an obvious Blade Runner influence with a massive space station full of bright neon signs and luxury nestled alongside slums populated by the destitute. Even the high tech stuff has an air of decay and neglect. The style swiftly switches to heavy Alien and Event Horizon influences (to name just the most obvious) once off the station. Total Recall and Matrix style conspiracy theories abound in the build up to a somewhat unexpected ending. It works hard to convince you that a jump scare is coming round every corner when in fact there are very few and seems to want you to think that an Event Horizon style gore fest is imminent when the actual plot is much more thoughtful.
Without spoilers the basic plot of the film is that, for whatever reason, the Earth is no longer habitable and most people have moved to a massive space station in orbit around the old homeworld while trying to scrape together enough money to migrate to a colony on a far-off planet. The agrarian paradise Rhea is heavily advertised to all inhabitants of the unnamed space station and held up as the ideal to which all right thinking people should aspire. Laura is one of these people, a young doctor working her last mission on a deep space transport vessel before she can finally join the rest of her family at the idyllic colony. Lucy receives regular video calls from her sister on Rhea and dreams about how life will be when she can finally get there.
Of course it isn’t too long into the mission that strange things start to happen as people start waking unexpectedly from their hibernation pods and rumours and conspiracy theories start coming to light. From then on it is fairly standard story wise and will be very familiar to anyone who has seen Alien or any of a dozen other space thrillers. The crew members all seem to have their own agendas and loyalties are forged and broken as one by one people start dropping dead.
Some of the ideas are pretty interesting though and although not entirely original make for some interesting twists to what felt like it was going to turn into just another slasher in space movie.
Some of the actions of the crew are completely inexplicable given the situations they are in and their supposed areas of expertise. People wander off and hang about on their own even though they know someone or something on board is bumping off their crewmates, probably just in an effort to build the tension. Important people are left alone and unprotected and suspected villains are left unguarded and unrestrained. And what kind of maniac stops in the middle of accusing a colleague of being less than truthful about their motivations to have sex with them?!
There are some great visuals throughout this movie from the contrasting bright lights and dirty slums of the space station to the simultaneously high tech and broken down environment of the cargo ship to the idyllic golden fields and rural charm of Rhea where everyone is trying to get to. They help to create a very believable atmosphere even when the plot and dialogue sometimes stretch belief. The haunting creepy emptiness of the cargo ship is particularly effective, even if it does borrow heavily from a host of predecessors it does so with skill.
The final act shifts to a mix of Matrix and Gravity influences. At least it seems to have a better grasp of the properties of vacuum and gravity than that film. Some spacewalk shots that feel a little tacked on to the end in terms of plot are at least brilliantly atmospheric and for the most part seem a lot more realistic than you usually get in a movie. Cargo is borrowing yet another theme from Alien and in fact doing it better than the original: in space no one can hear you scream.