Cargo review ★☆☆☆☆ Where’s the “smart,” exactly?

Cargo. 2009. Starring Anna-Katharina Schwabroh, Martin Rapold and Regula Grauwiller. Directed by Ivan Engler, Ralph Etter. Written by … entirely too many people. (Maybe that was the problem.)

I’d heard from someone that Cargo was a “smart” German science fiction film. I couldn’t locate the smart. It did not seem like the sharpest tool in the sci-fi shed.

Two words of kindness, which I’ll get out of the way:

  1. some nice visual design of tired space hardware
  2. good spooky suspense in the first act

I have nothing else good to say. The rest of this review is annoyed. Also, spoilers dead ahead — not that you should care.

Instead of smart, I found a trite, pointless story, overflowing with inconsistencies, extreme oversimplifications, and “what were they thinking!” abuses of physics and space travel. It was built from such familiar science fiction tropes that the film seemed to be stitched together pieces of other movies. Such as …

This is (yet another) a simulated reality story. Man, am I getting sick of these! I know I am supposed to be horrified by the idea of people stuck in a manufactured dream, eerily oblivious to their real existence as a pod dweller, but I just do not care. Why do we keep making movies about this? Is the notion of a perfectly simulated reality such a primal horror? Do we fear it like being buried alive? What?

Believable perfect virtuality is a high bar to clear. You really have to do a lot of looking the other way to accept it as premise for a story. It was fine in an over-the-top fantasy like The Matrix, but it’s just too absurd for a film that’s trying to be serious, gritty, hard science fiction. The inquiring mind cannot stop asking awkward questions:

It’s all just too ridiculous for suspension of disbelief, or even a slight reduction. Even if you could somehow make it all make sense, and solve all the eye-roll inducing engineering problems, there is still a much more serious problem here: the conflict is trumped up and shallow. There is no enemy except The Man or the company. I guess? See, I don’t even know — total yawn fest.

Not the sharpest tool in the sci-fi shed.