Black Crab review: an empty Netflix war movie at the right time

Press material for Netflix’s Swedish action movie Black Crab says it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world and that speaks volumes for the look and feel of this stylish military thriller. But “post-apocalyptic” is still a bit confusing. It’s the middle of the apocalypse, really, and the on-screen apocalypse isn’t a plague, an alien invasion, or an environmental disaster. It was a war – a brutal, conventional war that had been going on for years.

The geopolitics of this situation are deliberately concealed. In the opening flashback, a car radio mentions the riot, “both sides” blaming each other, and the start of a civil war. The setting seems to be Sweden. Enemies are just called “enemies.” To the extent that it is recognizable to the viewer, it is more like a self-emerging society than a clash of cultures or nations, but none of the ideological rifts are explained. Anything that causes conflict must be serious, because society is almost completely destroyed.

All of this lack of detail is perhaps intended to emphasize how pointless the conflict is or to keep the audience from getting bogged down in their personal political opinions about the war. But really, it’s like a failure of the imagination, making the film itself feel pointless: a bleak survey of how hellish war is, but it also sounds pretty entertaining.

Noomi Rapace aiming her rifle in a cold forest

Photo: Johan Bergmark / Netflix

Noomi Rapace, as serious and collected as she was in the original The girl with the dragon tattoo, plays Caroline Edh, a soldier recruited for a secret mission, “Operation Black Crab” in the title. It was a bitter winter, and her side was losing the war. They are almost completely cut off, and their only hope of turning the tables is to deliver the two mysterious boxes to a research station on a remote island. And the only way there is to travel quietly at night, sneak behind enemy lines, across an archipelago locked in a sea of ​​ice. The ice wasn’t thick enough to support a vehicle, so Caroline and a ragtag team of five other soldiers were assembled because they all possessed a traditional Norse skill: They could skate. .

It’s easy to see why the premise of Jerker Virdborg’s 2002 novel appealed to advertising director Adam Berg, where his film made its debut. The visual appeal and inherent tension are obvious, and to be fair, Berg recognizes both with fanfare. The small group glides silently through a fragile, eerie white wasteland, a desolate world suspended above a deadly void of frozen sea water. The night sky is lit by flares, gun flares, distant explosions, and otherworldly lights of the aurora borealis. Sometimes, the images have a surreal poetic quality. The team must battle the cold, the dangerous ice, the enemies everywhere – and each other, because they are strangers, and they are not sure who they can trust.

Here, in a strange and menacing moment, it evokes, Black Crab works pretty well. Explosive savings actions are clearly outlined and cut out with specific precision. The mission is simple and the threats are tangible. However, when Berg and co-writer Pelle Rådström were looking for something more, they simply stopped in broadcast mode. Clichés abound.

Military trucks gathered at a bombed base

Photo: Jonas Alarik / Netflix

Rapace is convincing, but can’t do much with thin material. Caroline, disobedient and fickle, appears in flashbacks trying to survive the early days of her war with her daughter Vanja, who was shunned from her. Her superiors exploit this pain as motivation, and their promise of an easily ended fight if her mission succeeds is questionable, at least. But she counts regardless. Her nihilistic motivations make sense, but her blinking forgetfulness doesn’t, and when the scab falls from her eyes, viewers will likely roll over theirs. The antagonism between her and another of the soldiers, Nylund (Jakob Oftebro), burns and flares and flares, however, the plot demands it. The lungs of other soldiers are destroyed by the way they are basically drawn and realized.

There is another, more difficult problem with Black Crab. When this movie was made, a terrifying, large-scale war in a modern European country was the subject of dark fantasy. Now, it is not. Berg showed us scenes of bombed apartment blocks and miserable refugee camps that looked like news from reports of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is not the fault of the filmmakers, and the world of Black Crab just far enough away from reality that it can be a delicious diversion.

But the comparison also shows that the film has empty gestures. Yes, war is hell, and it inspires people to imagine doing the impossible. But it also happens for real and complex reasons, and it has real stakes: humanitarian, political, moral. By stripping them of any meaning in the world, Berg and his collaborators show us only a beautiful, terrible emptiness. Honestly, it’s a no-brainer.

Black Crab currently streaming on Netflix. Black Crab review: an empty Netflix war movie at the right time


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