Director: James Dylan
Starring: Ron Thompson, Eliot, and Mark Wood
An intense thriller that combines claustrophobia with lost agency, director James Dylan’s Cargo (2018) builds a compelling character study of businessman Anthony Peterson (Ron Thompson). Tortured and subjected to demands from his kidnapper (voiced by Eliot), Anthony’s upstanding front slowly peels back to reveal a very different person underneath. It’s a one-room character study in the vein of 1408 (2007) or Reservoir Dogs (1992), only with less on-screen action. In fact, the bulk of the action takes place outside Peterson’s control, overheard through his cell phone as he tries to control the situation by manipulation others. It makes for a strong story with great acting and clever use of the camera to convey emotions and tension, but there is only so long we the viewer can watch a character talk on the phone.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
When Anthony first wakes trapped in a shipping container and subject to the threats of a kidnapper, we empathize with his plight. With human trafficking such a major part of the growing global consciousness, this is a very real danger for anyone whether they travel abroad or not. Through Anthony’s calls to various contacts in a desperate attempt to pay the ransom, we learn of his failed marriages, his failures as a father, and his ruthlessness toward anyone who gets in his way. It’s a clever way to tackle the character, and we end up conflicted: on the one hand rooting for his escape but on the other pleased he’s getting due punishment.
The characters are all fascinating, but the one that stood out for me (aside from Anthony himself) was Tom (voiced by Mark Wood), the aide and confidant whose terrible life choices cause the trouble to snowball. His drug abuse problem becomes a source of dark comedy: Anthony is in danger, trying to save himself and his wife from a kidnapper, but still walks Tom, a man on a laughable concoction of illegal substances, through the intricacies of a bank heist.
Overall, the film is pretty great. It has some wonderfully acted moments and real tension. But I can’t give it full marks: as I said, an hour is a long time to watch a man talk on a cellphone in a box. If you can look past that, it’s a great ride.
Kelley M. Frank