Thursday, October 20, 2011

Movie with Abe: Cargo

Directed by Yan Vizinberg
Released October 21, 2011

Human trafficking is a relatively common theme in cinema, ranging in focus and scope depending upon the specific project. In August’s “The Whistleblower,” based on a true story, Rachel Weisz’s UN peacekeeper fought to expose a ring of traffickers within the UN and to free the innocent girls involved. “Cargo,” which is an original story, uses a much narrower lens to explore the dynamic between Natasha, a young Russian woman hoping to make it as a model in New York, and Sayed, the serious, quiet Egyptian smuggler tasked with discreetly driving her from Mexico to the United States to meet her fate.

Intimacy doesn’t always equal meaning, and spending over an hour with just these two people doesn’t lead to depth or powerful revelations about these two. Instead, “Cargo” follows an extraordinarily predictable, often painfully slow trajectory in which Natasha, in disbelief, refuses to accept the reality of her situation, and Sayed gradually comes to care for the woman he is supposed to regard as nothing more than important cargo. The script is stuffy and uninventive, and all of their conversations feel familiar. It’s very much like a dramatic, action-less version of “The Transporter,” in which the title character breaks his one and only rule: don’t open the package. The difference is that Sayed is well aware of what his package is, but she’s determined not to be like other women before her.

Part of what holds “Cargo” back is that it doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. Its poster suggests that it might be a horror movie, as does its tagline, “What if you were the cargo?” It feels much more like a drama, though it occasionally borders on venturing into thriller territory, a journey for which it is not well-equipped. Much of the film’s success hinges on the impact of its lead performers. Natasha Rinis tackles her first major film role as Natasha, and she manages, if nothing else, to appropriately convey the terror of being trapped in an inescapable situation, determined not to let it break her. Sayed Badreya, whose career has consistently mostly of villainous supporting parts, isn’t asked to do much and responds accordingly. Both actors imbue their roles with passion but not necessarily believability, and the script doesn’t help much in that area. “Cargo” is a generally unpleasant experience that doesn’t manage enough intrigue to truly draw in its viewers and make itself memorable.


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