Cargo: A great-looking, but long and plodding feature that fails to say very much at all

One thing I don’t like to do with my reviews is to spoil the plots of the movies I’m reviewing because ultimately I believe that people should have the right and the ability to go out, watch the movie and judge it for themselves. The problem with Cargo is that there’s nothing to spoil, the movie is as hollow as a tennis ball. To some, including myself, it may seem like a very aesthetically-pleasing and innovative-looking tennis ball, a tennis ball the likes of which have never been seen on Indian courts. But you go in expecting something and come out wondering just why the movie needed to be so damn long.

Cargo movie makes some brave but somehow simultaneously feeble attempts at worldbuilding, it tries to explain how humans and rakshasas managed to come to a peace treaty, and how rakshasas are now responsible for the reincarnation (what they call a transition) of a human soul (what they call cargo). This worldbuilding fails on two levels for me. First off, the majority of this worldbuilding is communicated to the audience through heavy-handed exposition. The director continues to tell instead of show, and even when she tries to show she can’t do it without exposition.

The second issue for me is, they try to explain mythology away with science and mundane realism, instead of letting some mysticism hang in the air. In media, when there is little explanation for mythology, the mythology itself becomes the explanation, and the audience justifies over-the-top or illogical elements with magic or supernaturalism. However, when the director tries to explain mythology using logic, the logic holes in the movie seem that much bigger. Why do the rakshasas want to cooperate with humans? Can they die? Reincarnate? How did the knowledge of the true meaning (read: pointlessness) of life not throw the human race into a civilisation-scale existential crisis? How do the cargos have access to working mobile phones, when by all accounts their mobile phones should be down on Earth with their corpses? What are the consequences of the constant space-littering that goes on in the movie?

The main plot revolves around Prahastha, a stuck-up and jaded astronaut/transition expert who has been reluctantly forced to take a bright young assistant in the form of Yuvishka under his wing. The positives are, both Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi are fantastic actors, and have an undeniable amount of chemistry between them sometimes makes up for the lacklustre plot. The negatives are that the plot is lacklustre, nothing really happens. Character motivations are foggy, to say the least, and they often act in ways which don’t make sense. Prahastha has a vaguely defined superpower (“I can pick up and move anything with levitation”), which barely plays into the plot. There is a clear divide between Prahastha thinking his power is lame & no one disagreeing with him, and the audience wondering why he would think that.

Prahastha’s only motivation seems to stem from a breakup that led to him leaving the Earth to take a job in space, where he spends hundreds of years pining alone and writing letters to his ex that he will never send. The very little characterisation he receives apart from this makes him a difficult protagonist for fans to root for. At the same time, Yuvishka is never too far off from straying into manic-pixie-dream girl territory, and has very little development and basically no arc in the movie

I think that this movie would’ve fared much better as a short film, it has all the elements of being a very good one at that. Just a little more mystery, a little more characterisation and development, and a lot less runtime would have done a lot of favours to the admitted bounty of good ideas the makers had, while also allowing the actors to shine more without being diluted by the timeframe. Alas, that was not to be.

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