Get ready, this is going to be different. It is rare that a movie review site, or any news source for that matter, shows different perspectives on the same movie.
I am a firm believer that art is subjective. So when the powers that be at OC Movie Reviews asked me to review [Cargo] shortly after our writer Jennifer Verzuh wrote about it, I thought it would be a good exercise.
I encourage you to read her review first, to give you a frame of reference. This is in no way a response to the other review, but I will take her opinions into account.
[Cargo] is a low budget feature about a rich industrialist, Anthony Peterson played by Ron Thompson (“American Me”, Baretta (TV)”), who is kidnapped and held hostage in a large cargo container.
He wakes up in this steel prison, a cellphone was left inside, it rings, the kidnapper on the other end says Anthony has 24 hours to transfer ten million dollars to them or else he and his wife will be killed. He puts his wife on the phone briefly so Anthony knows this threat is real.
It must be said that this is a contained thriller, in fact it is about as contained as it gets. The entire move takes place inside this shipping container. Our fellow reviewer Jennifer Verzuh was spot on comparing it to movies like Buried and Locke. I would like to add Brake and ATM to that list.
That being said, [Cargo] was clearly made for a much smaller budget than Buried, which stars Ryan Reynolds, with an estimated budget reported to be three million and Brake, which stars Stephen Dorff as a man held ransom in the trunk of a speeding car. Because I am also a filmmaker, I’m the kind of reviewer that takes budget into account.
Since I have made a feature film, that does not make my opinion any stronger than any other reviewer, but it clearly offers a different perspective. Only a small fraction of film critics know what it takes to produce a feature length movie, I wish this was a prerequisite somehow. I feel movies are like people, they take all forms and it is hard to find one that has no positive value.
Some filmmakers have said the fact that a movie gets made at all, is a miracle. While I cannot call [Cargo] a great movie, it pulls off an interesting story that is hard to maintain and does it in style.
I found the production design of this cargo container to be thought out and well crafted. The strip lighting on the floor and track lighting up above make for a nice visual contrast.
The painted walls of the interior created a subtle, dark texture, a fitting backdrop. The writing changed things up in unexpected ways and the camera work conveyed the events with tact and added to the tone nicely. The dialogue could have been better, at times being repetitive and formulaic.
I have to agree with our fellow reviewer when it comes to the acting of Ron Thompson being sub-par. Ron Thompson has film and television credits dating back to 1962, so he is not a rookie at his craft.
Filmmakers know the top priority after you have a great script, is to get the best actor possible to make the whole illusion real and charged with emotion.
That is why Phone Booth cast Colin Farrell as the man with the receiver pressed to his ear, and had Kiefer Sutherland barking demands from the other end of the line.
Now I would never expect a movie with the budget of [Cargo] to afford an A list actor like Ryan Reynolds, they do need to find the actor that can provide the best performance for the role. This is where Thompson falls short. I did find half of his performance to be genuine, but that is not good enough.
Early on he is gingerly tapping the side wall as the character is supposed to be pounding this structure, fighting to get out. Physically and emotionally, many moments feel false. Thompson also delivers plenty of flat, uninspired line deliveries, some which even made the trailer for the movie.
When it comes to the dialogue of [Cargo], our previous review stated that the movie only mentions women in their relation to men and refers to them as bitches and the like.
That is absolutely correct, in that [Cargo] does not pass The Bechdel Test. I highly recommend that every writer look into this if they are not aware of it. Yet, I maintain that not every movie has to pass that test. Both The Graduate, or Lord Of The Flies would pass either. I for one do not want to live in a world where movies like those feel the need to apologize for themselves.
The kidnappers are holding a man hostage, the character of Anthony Peterson is having his life threatened every second. I feel it would be unrealistic to expect these hardened criminals and a man facing death to be watching their language.
In addition, the men in this movie are called some bad names and the men do terrible things, they are not shown in a positive light at all.
One thing that is undeniable is that a small group of people gave their all in order to make this movie happen. [Cargo] is a first feature for James Dylan as a writer, director and producer.
The cinematographer, Christopher Gosch was also a producer and one of four editors on [Cargo]. J.C. Macek III, was one of the actors, a producer and author of the novelization of [Cargo], which is published by Bloodhound Books.
In closing, [Cargo] is far from being a great movie, yet it is a success by its own merits. They got that boulder up the mountain, there it goes charging down the opposite side…. some may not like how that boulder rolls, others may applaud its descent.
Making any movie like [Cargo] takes ingenuity and dare I say, thinking outside the box. The novel shares the same name and is available now, the movie is set to be released worldwide on November 13.
If you have any interest in [Cargo] you can then see it for yourself and make up your own minds, at the end of the day, that is the firmest truth each of us will ever know.
Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the suspense movie Cam-Girl, in turn, his work has been judged by total strangers as well, he has taken the bad with the good.