Even if you watch a lot of foreign films, you are likely to give me a blank look if I ask you to mention some of your favourite Swiss films. And if I ask you to name even one Swiss sci-fi film, you will not be able to do so unless you mention Cargo, the one and only Swiss sci-fi film ever made.
Under those circumstances, and throwing in a very small budget, we have to cut the Swiss some slack. With low expectations, I therefore found Cargo surprisingly entertaining.
The film takes place (for the most part) in the confines of a space ship called Kassandra, which is taking its cargo to a storage facility near a distant planet four years away. The claustrophobic feel is palpable, especially when it is combined with a constant sense of impending doom (or at least an impending attack on one of the few crew members by an unknown killer).
The protagonist of Cargo is a woman named Laura Portmann (played well by Anna-Katharina Schwabach), a doctor who needs the money this eight-year trip will bring in so that she can join her sister on the idyllic planet Rhea (Earth has become uninhabitable in the 23rd century and those who can’t afford to escape to Rhea are crowded into space stations surrounding the earth).
Most of the journey is slept away in hibernation, but each of the crew is required to take a solitary shift on watch. Towards the end of Laura’s very boring final eight-month shift (outgoing), she discovers that something is amiss. Someone is on board who is not supposed to be, and as for the cargo itself, it is most certainly not what she thought it was.
Cargo is an Alien-like sci-fi film which relies heavily on the claustrophobic suspense to keep the audience engaged. The atmosphere is well-created and so for me it succeeded in this (others won’t enjoy this aspect of this rather slow-moving film). Nevertheless, the film has many flaws, like plot elements borrowed from a number of sci-fi films (it would give too much away to name them), less than stellar acting in a number of cases and a romance that just doesn’t work.
Still, as I said, my standards are lower for low-budget foreign sci-fi films, especially if it's in a foreign language I understand, and there were enough original ideas to keep me thinking, along with that ever-present suspense, so I give Cargo ***+. My mug is up even if the stuff inside is not of the highest quality.