BIFF 2013 - Cargo 200 - Cinema Review

Agniya Kuznetsova in Cargo 200
'a tautly plotted, interwoven Thriller, sporting one of the most depraved villains of all time'

Aleksey Balabanov's demented Cargo 200 proves to be a tautly plotted, interwoven Thriller, sporting one of the most depraved villains of all time. Captain Zhurov (Aleksei Poluyan) is introduced to us staring blankly through a window on an illegal vodka farm, as the plot fools us into thinking it is interested in Artem (Leonid Gromov) and his journey to see his Mother. Just one of several slight of hands, it is Zhurov that this film is mainly interested in, a police captain with a sideline in kidnap, rape and murder.

Over the course of Cargo 200, Zhurov's blank-faced mania is employed to stunning effect, as kidnap victim Angelika (Agniya Kuznetsova) is introduced to one of his detainees, left alone with his mother and eventually shown in no uncertain terms just why her fiancée will not be coming to save her. It's grim watching, but there is a morbid delight here in seeing just how far Zhurov will go, arguably further than any on-screen villain has been allowed to, if immediate memory serves.

Whilst Balabanov's twisting plot might, at face value, seem well-managed it is actually its balancing that proves to be Cargo 200's main stumbling point. Artem is unceremoniously dropped the minute he becomes less interesting than other characters and several others (Artem's brother) appear only to facilitate forward movement elsewhere. Balabanov clearly wants to keep you off balance, and he does, but there is something unsatisfying at constantly being pointed in a new direction, frequently one which you feel you have been manipulated towards.

It's also, despite all of the plot movement, oddly dull on occasions, particularly whenever Zhurov goes off screen for any extended time. The dour Soviet setting has little exciting going for it and the pace can slow to a huge crawl as much vodka is supped by the protagonists.

That isn't to say Cargo 200 isn't hugely fun in its own odd way, especially for those bored by Hollywood villains who aren't all that villainous, but its grimness stifles it sometimes on several levels and it relies on Zhurov greatly.

The 19th Bradford International Film Festival ran from 11th to 21st April 2013 at the National Media Museum and other venues near to the city.

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