Directed by: Adam Berg
Premise: A Swedish film. In the last days of a civil war and with the government about to fall, a team of soldiers is sent on a desperate mission to delver a weapon that will reverse the outcome of the war. A female soldier (Noomi Rapace) is told her missing daughter is at the military base.
What Works: Black Crab is a bleak movie and it has an appropriately cold and weathered look. Early scenes take place in urban spaces that have been ravaged by war but much of the movie is set in the Scandinavian wilderness. The government is in such desperation that their only hope is to send soldiers on ice skates over the Stockholm Archipelago to deliver a secret weapon. The trip is full of danger from the opposing military, thin ice, and severe weather and the filmmakers capture the harshness of the journey. The look of the film visualizes the grimness of war but also reflects the weariness of the soldiers and the ambiguity of the mission. Black Crab is about the fog of war. The soldiers accept their mission and follow it without question, in particular Caroline played by Noomi Rapace. She became separated from her daughter early in the war but Caroline is led to believe that they’ll be reunited if the mission is completed. Rapace carries that desperate hope and her performance is fierce. Caroline’s single minded focus blinds her to the bigger realities of the war and causes conflict among her fellow soldiers. That fog of war gradually lifts as Black Crab nears its climax and the filmmakers effectively raise the stakes.
What Doesn’t: With the exception of Caroline, most of the characters of Black Crab are undefined. The ambiguity serves a purpose; there might be a traitor among the team and everyone’s background is kept vague. But the characters don’t have much personality. The lack of characterization impairs the stakes of their mission. The civil war of Black Crab is also kept vague. We don’t know who the sides are or what they are fighting over. Here again the ambiguity serves a narrative and thematic purpose but it also leaves the story world largely undefined. We never really know if one side or another has the moral high ground or even what they stand for. Black Crab contains a sudden reversal at the end. The film doesn’t really build up to that moment and the characters’ decisions come across rash rather than principled.
DVD extras: On Netflix.
Bottom Line: Black Crab is a grim and nihilistic picture but it’s also bold with a compelling performance by Noomi Rapace. It doesn’t provide simplistic moral conflicts and its ambiguities make this a challenging and mature film.
Episode: #901 (May 15, 2022)