Thursday 28 July 2022

Movie Review: Black Crab (2022)

A secret mission war movie, Black Crab enjoys strong visuals in a frigid setting, but the sketch story is too vague to register.

In a prologue, the security situation in Sweden is disintegrating. Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace) is caught up in murderous street violence and her daughter Vanja is abducted by armed men.

The main setting is a few years later, in a desperate and almost defeated Sweden ravaged by war. Now a soldier, Caroline is recruited by base commander Colonel Raad for a dangerous mission: to skate over hundreds of miles across a frozen archipelago to the town of Odo, where a devastating blow can be delivered against the enemy. Raad further motivates Caroline by revealing that Vanja has been found in Odo. 

Caroline is joined by a small team of soldiers, including the mysterious Nylund, the young Granvik, the veteran Malik, and the erratic Karimi. The journey is hazardous, the enemy is always close, and the group suffers casualties. But Caroline is eager to reunite with her daughter, even after discovering the true implications of her mission.

Black Crab is almost a good film, but does not quite make it. The Swedish production imagines a devastating war and creates grim aesthetics to match. Once the trek across the ice gets going, director Adam Berg (who also co-wrote the script) captures some majestic scenes of soldiers skating at night across an endless landscape. Noomi Rapace lends conviction, providing Caroline with the admirable determination of a soldier with not much left to lose but harbouring hope of a miraculous reunion.

Unfortunately, almost everything else is a let down. The script is just too loose, and does not bother to cover the basics. Providing no context for war to focus on a soldier's jaded viewpoint may be acceptable; it's less excusable to skip over fundamentals of the central mission. What exactly is expected of Caroline and her colleagues once they arrive at their destination is curiously elusive. Even after the contents of their secret capsules are revealed, essential mission execution tactics are missing.

Other shortcomings are simply lazy. An early interaction between Caroline and Nylund ends badly, and his suspicious behaviour remains unexplained. In the final act, the previously scrappy good guys are suddenly in control of a massive military base complete with a complex research laboratory, although Caroline and her colleagues were supposedly dispatched deep behind enemy lines. The infiltrate-the-castle climax forgets about the war and borrows from Bond movies dating back to the 1960s.

Instead of securing the fundamentals, Berg leans on Caroline's fixation to find her daughter. As presented, the mother-daughter bond is simply not strong enough to carry the drama's weight. 

The narrative faults are more painful because the potential for a high quality war movie is evident. Black Crab packs promise, but carelessly drops it through the ice.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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