Black Crab Review: A Post-Apocalyptic War Movie On Ice

I'll say one thing for "Black Crab": I'm pretty sure this is the first and only post-apocalyptic movie where the characters spend the majority of the runtime ice skating. Directed by Adam Berg, this bleak Swedish pic is set in the midst of a cataclysmic war. It's vague enough to seem timely, with people fighting over seemingly nothing but their raw hatred. It's winter, everything is frozen, and everyone looks suitably miserable. As the war rages on, six soldiers — led by former speed-skater turned soldier Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace) — are tasked with transporting two mysterious canisters across a frozen archipelago. "You'll move sideways behind enemy lines, like a crab in the dark!" their commanding officer tells them. Sure! Whatever you say!

I assumed that the canisters — which we're told must never be opened! — would serve as vague MacGuffins, but no, "Black Crab" eventually gets around to telling us what's inside them. I won't spill the beans here, but according to the powers-that-be, these canisters have the power to finally end the war — but only if the soldiers can deliver them. Caroline wants the war to end, but more than that, she wants to be reunited with her long-lost daughter. She's told that if she's able to complete her mission, she and her child will be reunited. And so Caroline and her team strap on some skates and hit the ice. 

And while you might think of ice skating as a fun activity, there's no fun to be had in "Black Crab." To be fair, the movie is set during a genocidal war, so it's not going to be a barrel of laughs. But should a movie with this much ice skating really be so damn dreary? I guess so, because there's not a moment of levity to be found here. There are plenty of scenes where characters give long monologues about rats feasting on corpses in mass graves, though. 

Unforgiving post-apocalyptic drama

Rapace is suitably grim-faced, but her character is the only team member who has anything resembling character development. Everyone else is here to simply follow along and die a horrible death. So it goes. All of this might be okay if the filmmaking on display elevated the material, but the action is rather flat and boring, and the film itself has a look that waffles between stunning and impenetrable. 

There are several shots — like when our skate-soldiers are gliding across a body of water choked with frozen bodies — that will stop you in your tracks. Then there are scenes where characters are in murky bunkers, shrouded in so many shadows that it starts to look like the scene is fading to black. Maybe this would all look better up on a big screen in a dark theater, but "Black Crab" is a Netflix movie, and we must make do with our TV sets. 

"Black Crab" does feature some memorable moments peppered throughout the film, all of them grim. I particularly liked a scene where one of the disposable soldiers falls through the ice while wearing a back-pack containing the canisters. Rapace's character immediately dives in, and we assume she's swimming to save her fallen comrade. But no — she merely cuts the backpack free from the lifeless body and swims back to the surface. The mission is all that matters. 

"Black Crab" is likely too bleak to fit in with the traditional forgettable Netflix fare. Those craving some gloomy, unforgiving post-apocalyptic drama might get a kick out of what's on display here. Everyone else might want to scurry away. You know, like a crab in the dark.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10