By Seth Lukas Hynes
Black Crab is a taut, efficient Swedish thriller, but stumbles with its broader intrigue.
During a devastating war, Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace) and her team must skate across the frozen Stockholm Archipelago to deliver a vital package.
Black Crab draws strong suspense from its faintly absurd premise, with several compelling sequences of combat, stealth and paranoia. The sound design puts you on edge with ominous crackles in the ice, and the stark cinematography juxtaposes the muted blues, whites and greys of extreme cold with the fiery orange and blood red of battle. The action scenes are well-shot, brutal and carry a clear sense of peril.
Rapace conveys strength and vulnerability as Edh, and her lost daughter Vanja provides a poignant anchor for her journey. The characters are engaging, and Dar Salim provides gruff levity as Malik. Like Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (but with exactly opposite temperature extremes), Black Crab benefits from a gradual tightening of focus, as the team members dwindle and their situation grows more dire.
Unfortunately, the plot has a poorly-defined conspiracy beyond the gripping theme of survival.
Black Crab superficially resembles Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 masterpiece Shame, as both (Swedish) films feature corrupt authorities and a struggle for survival amid a gruelling war. Shame and Black Crab both have a “gap” in their world-building, as neither film identifies the enemy. Shame doesn’t need to, as decent society and the protagonists’ happy marriage breaking down in tandem are more important as the film’s dramatic, very personal foundation. Black Crab’s scarce world-building is frustrating, as the villains’ plans and war-torn Sweden’s place in the world are quite nebulous (and the bioweapon reveal is very predictable).
Black Crab is an extremely tense, atmospheric thriller with vague world-building, and is available for streaming on Netflix.
– Seth Lukas Hynes
Starring Noomi Rapace, Jakob Oftebro and Dar Salim