Starring Anna-Katharina Schwabroh, Martin Rapold and Regula Grawiller

Directed by Ivan Engler and Ralph Etter

Written by Arnold H. Bucher, Ivan Engler, Patrik Steinman and Thilo Roscheisen

The Swiss are known for their watches and their neutrality, not for making sci-fi films, which makes the very existence of Cargo amusing.

According to the preamble delivered in front of the film’s Toronto After Dark matinee today, Cargo was made over the course of eight years for $2 million, and the money is all up there on the screen. The eight years of production and four credited screenwriters, though, indicate that perhaps something went a little wonky in the film’s production history. Certainly the final film fails to deliver the same kind of emotional oomph its visuals do.

Set in a future where the Earth has been rendered uninhabitable, people dream of making enough money to move to Rhea, a utopian planet in a nearby galaxy. Laura (Schwabroh) is a medic on an eight-year-long cargo flight, taking building materials to a space station. The journey will net her enough money to be reunited with her sister, who left for Rhea years ago. Each crew member takes an eight-month shift while their comrades sleep in cryogenic suspension.

As you may have guessed, something goes wrong during Laura’s shift, there is a death, and the crew is awakened to investigate. As it soon turns out, the ship’s cargo isn’t what they thought it was.

Cargo is a beautifully realized film visually but is sadly lacking in character. Its big reveals are muted by their obvious nods to sci-fi classics like The Matrix, Solaris and Aliens. Lead actress Anna-Katharina Schwabroh’s almost total lack of charisma also makes Cargo feel longer than its near two-hour running time. The other characters are stock figures about whom we learn virtually nothing. Some third-act drama and the raising of the stakes emotionally almost make the slow lead-up worthwhile but not quite.

Consider Cargo a worthwhile attempt at Hollywood-style eye candy but, like most eye candy, devoid of any long-lasting resonance beyond the initial sugar rush of money well-spent .

Cargo is being released on DVD and Blu-ray November 30th by Mongrel Media.

Rating: 3/5

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