Cargo (2006) Poster


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One Depressing Voyage
wmjaho25 January 2006
I think the reason the Sundance organizers like dark depressing movies is that no one else does. You can make a rotten comedy and it can still do $30 million at the box office. But if you're going to go the slow downer route, you'd better have A Beautiful Mind, or something like it, or you're destined for straight to DVD. And if Sundance is intending to encourage an outlet for all forms of expression, I suppose that's a worthy objective. Just don't plan on enjoying some of the movies.

Cargo is about a ship leaving Africa for Europe and a young man (Daniel Bruhl) who stows away. It is clear from the get-go that this is a mysterious voyage, with exotic birds and rough-looking sailors with secrets and mysterious searches and who knows what's going on. I certainly didn't. It all gets cleared up in the end, which proves to be anticlimactic. In fact, by the end of the movie I hardly cared.

Listening to the Q&A at Sundance I began to understand why. This was a script that took a meandering course to completion, often pausing at many forks in the road to production. Fantasy or reality? Nice guy or not? Happy ending or sad? Somehow, these decisions were made and as a result Cargo feels less like a director's vision than it does a project by committee.

I didn't really know or care about any of the characters. And with all the eeriness of the set-up, I was expecting something more.
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Little gem of a find
lloyd15013 July 2014
I picked this up for a fiver in HMV after browsing the DVD section. I was drawn by the box and thought it was a horror. I did not read all about its's awards etc and thought it was an out and out horror.

It is not - it is a slow burning thriller.

As the film went on I started to emphasise with the main character. What would I do in his shoes - was it right to keep your head down and say and do nothing.

I thought all the characters were played well although I thought the captain played by Peter Millen, from my neighbouring town Peterhead, could have been a little more menacing and not so much brooding - it looked though he was in physical pain rather than emotional. Special mention to Gary Lewis and Samuli Edelmann. Good character actors with something simmering below the surface.

Well worth a look.
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Intense, well paced, and well directed
kent-10420 September 2006
Daniel Brühl stars as Chris, a plucky German traveler in Africa who stands up to pretty much everyone. In trouble with the local law and having lost his passport, he stows away on a cargo ship headed for Spain. Peter Mullan is brilliantly cast as the captain, Brookes, whose throaty drawl and demeanor are perfectly cast as a captain.

Once Chris is exposed as a stowaway on the ship, he becomes a part of the crew, but slowly starts to realize that the law and morality have no meaning on the high seas.

The film is moody, well shot, and the acting is exceptional. While many scenes are high intensity and very suspenseful, there is no excessive gore or any "boo" horror therein. The mood and the unanswered (and answered) questions leave the viewer questioning reality and what severe isolation must do to a crew of men such as these.

Daniel Bruhl is perfectly cast as Chris; his charisma turns on and off at will, and he transforms his character from complacent to annoyed in a second.

Peter Mullan accompanies Bruhl with his stolid, cryptic, and persistent mood, yet comes across as a character you have to like because he demands to be in charge.

For a moody, tense thriller with an intelligent back story, see this movie.
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A metaphor about life
jpmota9 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes, people take a detour on their lives and end up going somewhere they would never want to be. That's what happened to a young boy named Chris who traveled on work to an African country and decided to stay (or so he says) to know more about it. Romantic fantasies subside when the truth about corruption and violence in African nations puts Chris in a dire situation... ... so he decides to stowaway on a boat for Marseille, a boat with a special treatment reserved for stowaways. Having slept harmless in the cargo hold for one night, before being found, everybody else on the ship thinks he knows what lies hidden in the hold, that makes strange noises and frightens the crew-members, making them disappear one by one. Is it a sea monster? A ghost seeking revenge?... The problem is: the crew knows more about it than Chris, and a sense of mistrust is visible from day one. Who's friend, who's foe? And who's more afraid of whom? Told to stay in his room, close his eyes, sleep, and ignore the strange noises at night, he decides to find out what secret hides behind a name written in the WC walls: "Rebecca". And he does. And he now knows he SHOULD NOT be alive, and survivor's guilt sets in... "Cargo" is a metaphor about live. About the way we have to live with our egocentric decisions, about the ghosts we carry and the mistakes we made in the past, and the way we deal with strangers and try to find a meaning to our lives in the experience with significant others. And, as "The Baptist" (the cook) says in the last minutes of the movie to Capt. Brookes, "It's not too late to be human again". So the Captain kills him. A very claustrophobic ambiance carries very far the sense of strangeness between the crew-members and the stowaway, and the story is told more with silence and secrets than with acts or dialog (except for the story about "Rebecca" and all the killings after that). You can almost feel the urge to demand that the crew accepts and treats fairly the poor Chris, but they are on opposite extremes of the Humankind. In the end, Chris's sacrifice redeems the entire crew that abandons the ship "Gull" for a new life on the ground, but his body will lie there, in the cargo hold, in the arms of Capt. Brookes, determined to go down with the ship to atone for his sins. Though simple, it is a nice movie to see in late night sessions. P.S.: there are no ghosts or sea monsters on this ship, but the ones we carry inside our own hearts.
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Crew Cut
pantagruella8 August 2010
This is a delight. I have seldom seen so much achieved with so little. What a crew! What accents! This reminds me of the Bill Hicks sketch where he recalls that Brits seldom have more than a soccer ball to threaten people with.

This German kid makes the big mistake of going to Africa outside of a World Cup event. Next the mistake of running out of funds. Falling foul of the militia. Losing his passport. And then the chance to get back to Europe on a cargo ship.

We, who like films, are always looking for little gems that slip through the Net. They are not put together by committee. They are not put together on someone's PC. Things don't blow up every five minutes. The hero does not dodge all the bullets sent his way.

One of the best captains I have seen.
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Great set-up, lousy conclusion. They should have made a horror film out of it.
fedor819 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The movie starts off establishing Chris as an unsympathetic, dubious character. He steals a bracelet after a man refuses to sell it to him; not only that, Chris treats the vendor with obvious contempt, without any reason. A little later, he has an altercation with the local police, in which he frees himself by head-butting one. Now, regular German students (or young people) visiting any country for tourist reason do NOT even know where to begin with executing a head-butt, let alone perform one on a cop. Hence, we have to assume that Chris is an unsavory character at best.

And yet, as events unfold on the ship, Chris turns out to be a person of principle, ready to risk his own neck to save a couple of stowaways that he barely even knows. So what triggered this sudden change in him? Or are we merely looking at another badly written movie character? I tend toward the latter.

Whether Chris is badly written or badly understood hence played by the bland, vastly overrated, nepotist German actor Bruhl, there is definitely something "off" about his behaviour throughout the movie. There is no indication early on that Chris is a moron, and yet he behaves like one on several occasions once he has been discovered on the ship: 1) he practically laughs at the blond guy whom he caught masturbating, 2) he is rude without a reason toward Mullen while shaving him, 3) he is told to remain locked in his room, yet he goes to the deck to spy on the crew, 4) he goes through Mullen's drawers, taking risks that are far too unnecessary, especially for someone in his shoes. His behaviour on the ship is that of a misbehaving, overly curious child, i.e. Not of an illegal passenger who is supposed to keep a low profile in a place that is very obviously run by criminals.

The other somewhat problematic character is the one played by Mullen. Here is a man who kills his best friend on the ship by repeatedly smashing his head in, who has African stowaways thrown overboard to their deaths without so much as flinching, and who had already killed even his own son by breaking his neck! And yet the captain is plagued by remorse that seems to be far too strong for a person of that kind of extremely low moral fiber.

Mullen's treatment of Chris is bafflingly permissive and soft, which we much later find out was the result of Chris resembling his dead son. That, of course, explains why Mullen looked at him so intensely in the bar when they were all still on land. Chris is not only an illegal passenger, but his behaviour is provocative, to say the least. In the end, as Chris drowns, Mullen is overcome with guilt, as if witnessing a renewed murder of his dead son. He breaks down completely, starts sobbing and even orders the entire crew to leave the ship! Somehow none of this feels very realistic. Someone who exhibits psychopathic violent tendencies is almost always devoid of empathy, let alone guilt or love for anyone, even for a family member. Mullen plays a person that cannot exist in the real world.

"Cargo" is an interesting, moody film that promises a lot but ultimately disappoints with its mostly banal conclusion. There are hints of ghosts, of supernatural forces plaguing the ship (the strange sounds, coupled with the birds' behaviour), but in the end it's all just a puff of smoke. Little is explained. We never find out who made those noises, nor do we understand why the crew are disappearing. Are they being killed by ghosts or - as one person here wrote - killed themselves due to guilt by jumping overboard. That's an interesting theory, but not very plausible. Were they killed by the illegal passengers? Not too likely; they are not presented as that dangerous.

Chris's death is a little weird, too. He jumps into the ocean to rescue Subira, but she refuses to connect hands! I tell ya, when you're drowning, your very strong instinctive reaction is to grab the hand of WHOMEVER is offering it to you, and may it even be Hitler's or Stalin's. A very unconvincing scene. As a result, Chris drowns - while Subira saves herself! "Cargo" had potential, but somewhere along the line there must have been too much last-minute tempering with the script. I have no other explanation...

So what is the movie about? In the words of the famous 20th-century poet The Notorious B. I. G.: "My cargo, escargot...". Sorry, no idea what this means, but neither had the murdered fatso.
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Very taut, impressive
mcarcaise27 January 2006
Very strong film. I just viewed it at the Sundance Film Fest. Top-notch cast, especially Peter Mullan as the Captain. His voice is like a limestone quarry. Great cinematography (and in the tight quarters of a cargo ship) executed by a crew that comes from documentaries. It is the director's debut fiction feature. Apparently all of his previous work has been in the documentary genre. I say a very good first outing.

Others felt it dragged at times, but I disagree. Very well-paced. It begins as a young man's desperate journey home to Europe and becomes a study of a depraved Captain. The subtext is a comment on government's tendency to outsource dirty work (in this case dealing with stowaways).
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Unresolved Questions but Perhaps Worth a View
jebretail21 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
An interesting collaborative production out of Spain, staring a leading German actor, and shot in English, "Cargo" starts, continues, and finishes with a permeating sense of dread and discomfort.

Imagine the scene in "Das Boot" in which the ruddy engineer loses it, and extend that to a full-length film (adding some mysterious sounds and disappearances of characters) and you get the general feeling.

For all its beautiful, gritty imagery, the story leaves some significant questions unanswered. That's not necessarily bad in a film. For example, a question like "Does the captain's ominous drawing of the beautiful parrot turned demon actually mean something literal, or metaphoric?" leaves you with something to think about and discuss.

But, other questions (Why and how are the sailors disappearing? Are they being killed or jumping ship from guilt? How exactly does the boy drown when the other thrown-over passenger seems to come out just fine?) leave you wondering if the script was badly cut, the film badly edited, or were bad direction or budgetary restrictions to blame. While glad to have seen it, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to a friend, unless they are a thriller or mystery fanatic.
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Merely Stupid.
sborges30 May 2008
The theme seems somewhat of interest, and it could have held attention if it were not for Daniel Brühl's character, "Chris", who is annoying to an extreme. For some reason, that the viewer is never able to understand, the incredibly innocuous Chris is able to screw up everything he touches from scene one until the grand finale. Anyone with even half a brain, finding himself in such a perilous state, would lay the lowest profile possible in an attempt to merely survive - which is the exact opposite route taken by Brühl's highly infantile and ridiculous character. After 30 minutes into the flick, you come to detest the guy's guts, wishing that the hostile crew would just fling the half-wit overboard and get it over with.

Do yourself a favour - skip this flop.
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What is the secret in the hold?
nochap9 October 2006
You don't often see gems like this. I saw it at the Raindance Film Festival. Having no idea what it was about, I just needed to fill a gap between two films that I did want to see. I was so gripped that I missed the following film. Dare I say this film is faultless? Dark, moody and understated. Acting brilliant, lighting superb etc etc. There are some unusual, non standard plot twists that I like to have in a film. This is not the usual Hollywood script and treatment and so much the better for that. The suspense is held wonderfully well and there is no padding, and no overlong reaction shots dragging on the narrative. And I almost forgot the Music/Sound effect work, I have never, ever heard that done so well, Oscar? On an independent? Not a hope. Beautifully merged to jar your senses, this is great.
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Well-paced and oppressing thriller
bahuna25 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Even though I really enjoyed "Cargo", I would like to share a goof I just discovered: After Chris is hit over the head, a crew member examines and cleans the wounds on his forehead. No blood is left on his brow. In the next scene, however, which shows Chris sitting on his berth, the old blood stain has miraculously made its way back to right below Chris' hairline.

Other than that, the plot seems perfectly consistent. The setting on an old rotting freighter keeping a dark secret in its bowels surely contributes to the film's overall spooky atmosphere. All the acting is credible, and character development is subtle and thoughtful, although the portrayal of crazy old Herman seems a little cliché-ridden and overdone. Even if it may not quite play in the league of Hitchcock and the likes, "Cargo" is miles above cheap, brainless and inconclusive torture flicks in the fashion of "Hostel."
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Not entirely plain-sailing but a long way from a ship-wreck
TheLittleSongbird11 August 2014
One of those films that has a lot of impressive things and other things that could have been done better. One of the things that Cargo has in its favour is that it looks great, the scenery is beautiful, the ship is like a character of its own, the lighting has a haunting effect and the photography and editing have a tautness and eeriness about them. The music also has an eerie quality while not making things too obvious, the first half of the story at least is very engaging and suspenseful as well as tightly paced, the dialogue is smart and intense at this point too and Peter Mullen and Daniel Bruhl are very well-cast, very brooding. In fact the cast is solid with nobody really disgracing themselves. The second half is not quite so good, it has its intense, suspenseful moments and the film is still well made and acted sure. But it also does come rather confused and even for a thriller things felt under-explained, granted thrillers can leave things open for interpretations and leave a lot of questions but for some reason Cargo didn't feel very complete at the end of the day. The dialogue becomes stilted by this point, the pacing loses its tightness and becomes plodding and Cargo does end on a banal note. The characters are relatively interesting in the first half and mostly for the second half but the viewer's frustration at Chris' actions increase more and more until reaching boiling point towards the end. Overall, a well-made film with some impressive things but a lot of the second half leaves one short-changed. Not plain-sailing but not a ship-wreck. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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This cargo should have sunk to the bottom
anwar_b_uk2 July 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Really bad movie , its building up to something that never appears, the main actor is not likable in any way , you want him to die, questions unanswered like why are the crew missing, where did they go. Why was the captain obsessed with the boy dont waste your time on this tripe
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Reality of immigration. (*spoilers*)
KrystelClaire12 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's not a bad film. What I liked most about it is that I was expecting a kind of Alien on the sea funfair, but then it turned out to be quite interesting.

The main plot is about how the crew of a cargo freighter decides to throw overboard every single illegal immigrant they find because of the high fines they would be charged otherwise. This may be based on reality, because some years ago, there were political talks in Spain concerning lorry drivers travelling from countries like Morocco to Europe: the drivers would be fined heavily if any immigrant would try to pass through the border hidden in their vehicles.

The idea was scrapped for good (thank god), but this film just explores that concept. What would happen if somebody simply decided that there is no way they were going to pay such a fine?
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Who was killing the members of the crew? And how? And why? And the behavior of some of the characters is simple unbelievable (specially the main character). Nothing has sense at all in this film. It's really difficult to do something so... Well, so like this. It's one of the worst moview I've ever seen.
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dark brooding thriller
herleifl17 February 2022
A dark and brooding maritime thriller, desperate people on the edge of society and a ship with dark secrets far out at sea. This is how I would sum up this film, it's all you need to know. If you want me to flesh it out some more it's about a young man who hides on a cargo ship to get back home, but he doesn't know he's going to find so much more than a free ride.
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A Study of a Psychopath on a Ship
incandescentshadow7 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Catching up with this film on Netflix a few years behind. The plot is already ell described above. Chris, a young, innocent looking, but dishonest, manipulative petty thief makes the self-destructive decision to steal a bracelet from a Ghanaian market stall, headbutt a policeman, lose his German passport and stow away on a ship bound for Marseilles in order to escape.

This plot makes sense if its viewed as a study of a psychopath. Chris provides the contrast between a normal, flawed human being and the monster that is a true psychopath, portrayed menacingly by Scots actor Peter Mullan, who has experience in these roles.

Furthermore, psychopathy is catching - the rest of the crew have already been infected, and fuelled by their human biological instincts to fit in, attempt to indoctrinate young Chris into the dark art of throwing African stowaways overboard to avoid the fines from handing them in when they dock.

4 male stowaways are disposed of in this way, and tit for tat, 4 crew members disappear, leaving only their boots behind. The only logical conclusion is that the Captain has murdered them and disposed of their bodies, since he is the ringleader (and has also drawn a number of seriously disturbing portraits of the crew which Chris finds in a drawer) and it becomes increasingly evident that he is a deranged murderer with no humanity left. He admits to Chris that he killed his own son in Cabin number 9 (occupied by Chris) by breaking his neck and throwing him overboard.

Chris attempts to reason with the Captain who, quite logically, states that there is "no going back" from breaking his own son's neck for contacting the coastguard on a previous voyage to report the murder of the stowaways. Chris argues that there is a way back, by saving the remaining female stowaway, Subira. The battle of right over wrong. The Captain disagrees and Chris is made aware that he can only save his own life by pushing Subira overboard. This he does, but Chris has a cunning plan and dives in to save her, knowing that the Captain will order a lifeboat to be lowered. Unfortunately, Chris drowns and when he is hauled back on board, then serves as a substitute for the Captain's son in his descent into his final psychopathic downer, brought on by realisation that he has ruined his life by his own actions and therefore death alone on a deserted ship is the only option.

And if you know anything about psychopaths, which unfortunately I do from some familiarity growing up in Scotland encountering the sort of character all too often played by Scots actor Mullan, devoid of conscience and full of depraved morality, the sending away of the crew in a lifeboat is significant. The psychopath does not have to suffer public humiliation, the mask is kept in tact and he dies alone.

Scots actors are very good at playing psychopaths. Another Scots actor plays an additional character, crew member Hermann, who appears to be suffering from good old fashioned schizoid delusions and who is seriously mentally unwell and is mocked by the crew before disappearing. The question remains, did Subira murder the crew members, or was it the captain? The final scene with Subira sailing away is not without a kind of redemptive and retributionary intent. Order is restored, balance is once more within the universe. The captive, blameless parrots fly to freedom.
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