Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

With such a top-notch crew, including the inimitable Peter Mullan and the wonderful Luis Tosar (Take My Eyes) plus veteran scriptwriter Paul Laverty at the helm, you would think this story of intrigue aboard a cargo ship would be plain sailing. Unfortunately, Cargo gets scuppered by its serpentine story, which is more confusing than compelling.

The plot springs a leak early on, when Daniel Bruhl, as German backpacker Chris, inexplicably steals a bracelet from a street market in northern Africa and then crosses swords with the police. This is pretty much a set piece designed purely to get him aboard ageing cargo ship The Gull, where the bulk of the action occurs. Barely seaworthy, the ship and its manic and menacing all-male crew are transporting a cargo of illegal birds to Marseilles.

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Inevitably, Chris is discovered ("You're about as welcome as a hedgehog stuffed up my arse," says the Captain (Mullan)) and they set him to work in the kitchen alongside the chef, Baptist (Tosar). Crew members start disappearing and the search is on for further stowaways - who are set to receive an even cooler welcome than Chris - a welcome so cold, in fact, it could turn murderous.

Cargo is certainly an oppressive and atmospheric film, with the hold full of birds suitably disorientating. The social message about the West's abuse of the developing world also comes across loud and clear - although the obvious parallel between the caged birds and the slave trade is somewhat heavy handed.

Ultimately, however, it is the half-baked thriller aspects that scupper the ship. When the crew disappear, their boots remain, the reason for which is never explained. Plot points hang in the air like cobwebs and try as you might to ignore the worst of them, they keep wafting about in your face. The story begins to feel oddly truncated, as though the wrong bits have been cut, and what was mysterious morphs into muddled. This is veteran documentary maker Clive Gordon's first feature film - but he can't be exclusively blamed for the problems here. It is the plotting which lets Cargo down. Despite its sound political stance you sense that rather than making waves this is likely to sink without trace if it ever makes it to the box office.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Madness and murder on a dilapidated cargo ship.

Director: Clive Gordon

Writer: Paul Laverty

Starring: Peter Mullan, Daniel Bruhl, Luis Tosar, Samuli Edelmann, Gary Lewis, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ricky Grover, Koen Balcaen, Christopher Fairbank, Carlos Blanco, Lois Soaxe, Jan Willem

Year: 2006

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Spain, UK, Sweden

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