War Sold is set in a post-apocalyptic Sweden. Volunteer soldier Caroline (Noomi Rapace) joins five others on a death-defying mission to transport valuable cargo behind enemy lines across an ice-covered archipelago. All in the hope that it will reunite her with the daughter who was taken from her when the fighting broke out.
Black crab starts with a bang. We’re in a car in a tunnel in Sweden, with Caroline (Noomi Rapace) and her daughter Vanja (Stella Marcimain Klintberg) listening to the radio and looking back at a karaoke session. When the sound of heavy gunfire erupts, people start running and Vanja is taken away by a bunch of soldiers in black balaclavas. It’s a chilling opening scene that builds a level of suspense that the rest of the film unfortunately fails to replicate.
Cut to an unknown amount of time in the future, and Caroline is a soldier in a war against an unknown “enemy” (the only way the opposing force is ever related). She is summoned by her superiors to carry out a very important mission – join a team of five other soldiers to transport two mysterious unopenable canisters to a research base. The tricky part? It requires going behind enemy lines and skating across a vast, ice-covered archipelago.
The problem with Black crab is that it felt more like an idea for an image – soldiers sliding over a pile of ice – which then had to be fleshed out with characters and locations and a plot that could take us to that place, rather than a fully fleshed out one Story. As risky as the dangerous, frigid setting is – and there are some well-executed, precarious moments – the film around it doesn’t hold up. The characters are paper thin (the defining trait of Rapace’s protagonist seems to be simply that she is a mother), the conflict they fight is completely unresolved, and the precious cargo, framed by The One Thing, that could end war is ridiculously simple. There’s pressure to weave in bigger themes, particularly in the third act – but even these are underdeveloped, resulting in a totally unnecessary and undeserved final 20 minutes.
Rapace is solid as always; Under pressure, Caroline is more than a match for the men around her, and will ruthlessly do what it takes to bring her daughter back to her. She does what she can to add dimension to the character while still remaining watchable under a stunning wig of corkscrew curls.
There are brilliant flashes of light from debut feature film director Adam Berg: shots of the team skating – silhouetted against the fiery explosions at the base they leave behind – are stunning; A scene where they encounter horrors frozen beneath them is a real punch in the stomach; and the action set pieces are all effective. But the screenplay he co-wrote, which is based on a novel by Jerker Virdborg, just can’t support it.
While the core concept is well executed, Black Crab’s somber tone, shallow writing style and derivative plot beats make for a movie experience that will leave you as cold as the ice its characters are forced to walk on.