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Cargo

Year: 2009
Production Co: Atlantis Pictures
Director: Ivan Engler
Writer: Ivan Engler
Cast: Anna Katharina Schwabroh

Movies like remind you that for all the whining about how creatively bankrupt movies are, that's only the case above a certain Hollywood budgetary level. 30 years ago, you'd no more see a sci-fi film from Germany as you would a horror film from Spain like The Orphanage or an Australian cyberpunk action thriller like Gabriel.

Vibrant, original filmmaking is alive and well below the line, and even though films like Cargo work hard for little traction in the face of US blockbuster juggernauts, they're not hard to find.

Laura (Schwabroh) joins a deep space delivery mission to raise money to join her beloved sister on a colony called Rhea, far from the depleted resources, poverty and environmental degradation of Earth.

She accompanies a small crew of officers, engineers and a security marshall to shepherd the huge freighter and its cargo of massive shipping containers to a remote supply station. While her crew sleeps in cryostasis, Laura uses her eight month long watch waiting for messages from her sister on Rhea, three years distant.

But when she learns the Kassandra has a stowaway, she wakes the rest of the crew up to investigate. Shifting alliances, a brooding sense on unease and sudden violence dog the mission and investigation at every turn, and things turn even stranger when Laura discovers the messages from her sister are only taking 20 minutes to reach her.

It has a great sense of being about truck drivers rather than space heroes. The Kassandra is gritty, dark and scary like the Nostromo was, and with a fairly low budget, the director wrangles some great shots with impressive size and scope. It's not the most original story you've ever seen, inspired by everything from Alien to The Matrix (for reasons that will be obvious when you reach the end), but it looks great.

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