Netflix’s Black Crab (Svart Krabba) is a Swedish action thriller set during an apocalyptic war. It focuses on a dangerous journey which six soldiers take to transport a top-secret package across a frozen archipelago that might put an end to the conflict.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Black Crab begins with Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace) having a conversation with her daughter, Vanja in their car as they wait for traffic to move. Suddenly, they hear gunshots and notice people abandoning their vehicles. This chaos ensues due to the onset of a bloody civil war and amid the ruckus, Vanja is taken by hostile soldiers and the plot jumps forth in time.
In present day, Caroline is escorted to the military base in her hometown for a top secret mission. There, she makes acquaintance of fellow soldiers Granvik (Erik Enge), Mailk (Dar Salim) and Karimi (Ardalan Esmaili). The four are then briefed by Col Raad who explains the details of operation Black Crab to them.
He explains that for the first time in years, the entire archipelago is frozen which gives them a ray of hope to win the war. The ice isn’t thick enough to support a vehicle nor is it thin enough to allow a boat sail through it. It can, however, support soldiers on ice skates.
Raad explains that they are to discreetly skate 100 nautical miles, all the way from Tuscany to Odo (which is behind enemy lines), and deliver two mysterious capsules to that base which will confirm their victory. They are also joined by Captain Forsberg (Aliette Opheim) and Lieutenant Nylund (Jakob Oftebro), raising the number to six.
Raad dismisses the others but asks Caroline to stay behind and shows her a picture of her daughter which was taken recently at a refugee base in Odo. He tells her that once she completes the mission, she will be reunited with Vanja and all of them are free to leave the army and do whatever they please with their lives.
Now with a personal agenda in mind, Caroline is determined to succeed and after an impromptu bombing of their base, the group heads out. What follows is a perilous journey full of casualties and a revelation that may endanger the entire world.
Noomi Rapace steals the show as Caroline Edh. She emotes the nuances of a desperate mother and a determined soldier expertly. There is a fierce rage in her character that blends well with her agenda to reunite with her daughter no matter what the cost.
Her strength lies in the fact that Caroline is severely flawed as a character. Her goals align with that of her superiors only because of Vanja, and the moment she realises it was all a hoax, her next plan of action is rebellion. However, her motherly instincts still dictate her decision to destroy the virus in the end.
Jakob Oftebro, who plays Liutenant Nylund, is a great partner in crime for Caroline. His introduction hints at him being not the most positive of characters but his arc is quite unexpected. He redeems himself by being the one looking at the bigger picture and deciding to destroy the virus before Caroline ever gets to that point.
One can argue that he is probably the voice of reason for the chaotic Caroline who sees nothing past her daughter. Erik Enge, Dar Salim, Ardalan Esmaili, and Aliette Opheim are great additions to the cast and hold their ground in the screen time their characters are given.
Black Crab is a high-octane thriller that does justice to its apocalyptic war setting for the most part. It is probably a film that is highly relatable to ongoing world events and therefore hits harder that maybe it intended to.
Adam Berg’s direction is stylised and brutal. He pulls no punches when it comes to displaying the brutality of war and the unforgiving nature of the cold. The harsh winter setting is almost like an extra character in the film that gets to present its crude reality to the audience.
The war setting in Black Crab feels urgent and the film has all the elements of a good action thriller that keep it engaging. From a ticking clock and a suicidal mission to hidden agendas and periodic fatalities, its got it all.
The film looks amazing. The shots over the frozen ice are breath-taking and almost mask the dangers it holds. This visual aesthetic is heightened by the intense musical score that adds a lot more to the immersion.
Black Crab’s biggest problem is that the film tries to be a lot more than it needed to. The premise of a desperate mother going on a dangerous mission to reunite with her daughter in war was all that it needed to stick to.
The revelation of the virus and the whole philosophical argument about the fate of humanity takes away from the film’s immersion. The third act of the film feels forced and unnecessary, and is only borderline interesting due to Rapace’s performance.
It also shoots itself in the foot by taking the focus away from the intimate mother-daughter dynamic that is the driving force of this narrative.
This is one of those rare cases when you do not necessarily see the plot twist coming but when it does, it is severely underwhelming. The writing here is a let down towards the end.
Another issue with Black Crab is that it never explains what the war is and who is involved. The details are left vague and therefore the potentially devastating impact of the virus on humanity does not have any concrete exposition behind it to make the audience care enough.
Black Crab sets off strong and maintains its potency for the most part, however it ends up being a let down. For fans of the genre, it is a must watch but if you’re hoping to get the next big action thriller with heart experience from this film, it might not be the one for you.