Review: Black Crab (Netflix)

Black Crab is a Swedish war dystopian war film released last year and it is an intriguing story mainly because of what it doesn’t do.

Sometime in the near future Sweden (presumably – I don’t think this stated) is engulfed in a bloody and relentless civil war. Edh (Noomi Rapace) is a soldier in what remains of an army fighting the enemy. She finds herself drafted into a desperate mission to transport two cannisters from one base to another. The problem is the two bases have been cut off from each other due to the advancing forces of the enemy. The only way around this is for a small team to skate over the sea ice under the cover of darkness.

If that sounds like a very contrived set-up for a war movie about a desperate rag-tag set of commandos, then you’d have a point. However, one thing this film doesn’t do is explain who or what this war is all about. A review in the Guardian from last year founds this aspect frustrating:

“At a glance, there’s no evident rift of class, race or ideology defining the sides in this conflict. No one mentions what they have got against those bastards in the opposition, or the way of life they’re willing to die to preserve. That doesn’t have to be a problem; many soldiers marching off to fight cannot articulate the big-picture geopolitical impetuses for doing so, and that’s just how the powers that be like it. But seeing as we are here to question the morality of military action, it would certainly help to understand what everyone is arguing about.”

The enemy is simply “the enemy”. In nearly all cases the opposing forces have their faces covered. It isn’t even clear if this is a civil war or an invasion and even within the areas controlled by forces Edh is part of, violence and mistrust are rampant. Whatever this war is, it is all consuming and force in itself. The viewer doesn’t know why the war began or what differentiates one side from the other but the implication is that the people in the war do not understand this either.

For Edh this means her sole motivation is the hope that her daughter is still alive somewhere, a fact that her superior officers use to manipulate her actions. Her own survival and the mission objectives are secondary to the question of her daughter’s saftey.

The net effect is a tense, often alienating film, in which thin ice is as much a danger as enemy snipers. The final act attempts to wrap up the plot a little less successfully but overall it is a competent thriller. The deliberate avoidance of an explanation for the war I believe adds rather than detracts from the film. You don’t know what is going on in the broader sense because nobody does.


2 responses to “Review: Black Crab (Netflix)”

  1. I don’t know if I find that ambiguity frustrating exactly, but I do associate that kind of “war is a hostile landscape” approach with films that want to duck the question of why the soldiers are there and what they’re doing. It’s less dubious in a fictional civil war than it is in Vietnam, say, or Iraq, or Mogadishu, but it still feels a bit dubious

    Liked by 1 person

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