Netflix’s Swedish film, “Black Crab,” is certainly effective in its intention. While the atmosphere seems to be that of an apocalyptic world, it is actually the result of a civil war. In this way, the film leads us to believe that the latter will eventually lead to the former. And even the weather is used as a thematic element to stress the fact that the world has become cold and impassive, much like the humans living in it. To make it personal, we get Caroline Edh, for whom crossing the archipelago is not as much about delivering the canisters as it is about getting to her daughter, Vanja. She was taken by the enemies years ago, but is apparently alive and on the other side of the archipelago.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Black Crab’ Plot Summary
A Civil War is raging on. Caroline Edh (Noomi Rapace) is ordered, along with five other soldiers, Captain Forsberg, Nylund (Jakob Oftebro), Malik (Dar Salim), Granvik (Erik Enge), and Karimi (Ardalan Esmaili), by Colonel Raad (David Dencik) to deliver two canisters across a frozen archipelago from Tessenoy to Odo that shall end the war. Caroline, calls it a suicide mission and is reluctant when Raad shows her a picture of her long-lost daughter, Vanja (Stella Klintberg), who seems to be alive and in Odo. This is enough to compel her, and she agrees to the mission. What follows is an immensely dangerous journey across the frozen archipelago. It is during the journey that they find out that the canisters carry a biological weapon that will not just bring the war to an end but the world itself. Four of them die, and Caroline is also hit with a bullet.
At one point, Nylund tries to run with the canisters so that he can destroy them. But he is shot by Caroline because only if she delivers the canisters to the other side will she be able to get to her daughter. Or so it seems. Both of them lie unconscious on the ice until being rescued by soldiers in Odo. However, it is here that Caroline is told that her daughter’s picture was a bait to make her agree to the mission. She was never in Odo. A lost and enraged Caroline thus decides to destroy the canisters so that her daughter, wherever she is, if she is alive, can live her life. In the ultimate sacrifice, Caroline, with the two small vials of the biological weapon wrapped around a grenade, jumps off a cliff at the Odo base, thus destroying the biological weapons and killing herself in the process.
Not Just a Civil War
Amidst a civil war Vanja was taken from Caroline by the enemy soldiers. This we see right at the beginning of the “Black Crab.” Thus, it begins right at the point where a mother loses her child and signals to us that the whole film will be her journey of rescuing her daughter or coming out of the trauma. Thus, inside her too, a war rages on, between a part that believes that her daughter is alive and a part that thinks she is no more. And the fact that a civil war is made to look like an apocalyptic event is a reflection of Caroline’s agony that is a lot more than it seems. She is well-trained in combat and especially on skates. She knows the archipelago like the back of her hand. This is why she was chosen in the first place. When she jumps into the ice-cold water to save Forsberg, or at least to recover the canisters, we get a clear hint of her courage and her high presence of mind that does not let her current situation sway her from her objectives.
There are also doubts in Caroline’s mind regarding Nylund’s generosity. He was, after all, the one who left her to die midway while bringing her to the base of operations in Tessenoy. So, here we have yet another “war” going on inside her as well, between trusting Nylund and not trusting him, one that could compromise her mission completely. In this way, war is also made to reflect on Caroline’s character.
Caroline’s plan is to get to her daughter. And the canisters are her ticket. Thus, she stops at nothing until she reaches Odo. When Caroline finds Karimi using the radio, she immediately points a gun at him, suspecting him to be a spy. Karimi states that he was trying to connect to his girlfriend, who was supposed to be at base F28, one of the bases that got recently bombed. It is only when Nylund, who takes up the charge after Forsberg dies, orders them to let Karimi continue with them on the journey that she calms down.
Later on, when the five of them take cover in an old couple’s house, a crossfire between them and the old couple, who are working for the enemy, kills Karimi. And after some time, they receive a message on their radio. It is from Karimi’s girlfriend looking for him, thus posing the truth that Karimi didn’t lie and that they were wrong to doubt him. While Granvik regrets holding Karimi as a liar, Christine reaffirms their former decision, that of doubting Karimi, by saying that one cannot be sure that the woman was truly his girlfriend. None of them knew her. So, the lady on the radio could have been anyone.
In the face of guilt, we often hinge on the negative side of things that can save us from regret. This is what Christine is doing. She knows that the woman on the radio was Karimi’s girlfriend in all probability. So to not let herself, and probably the others, brood in guilt, and waste precious time, she mentions that the woman could have been anyone, perhaps even the enemy who may have intercepted Karimi’s messages. In this way, she tries to bring everyone back to their senses. But her dedication to the mission that is made evident here is a cloak, isn’t it? She is delivering the canisters only because she believes that it will help her get her daughter back. What establishes this, even more, are her dreams and hallucinations of her daughter. Would she be this willing if she wasn’t told about her daughter? Probably not. This is because we saw her reluctance right at the beginning when she was told about the mission.
Nylund knows what’s in the canister, so he intends to destroy it. In fact, maybe this was the reason why he left Caroline in the car to be killed by a bunch of homeless people. He knows that Caroline has the capability to accomplish the mission, and if she does, the whole world will perish. He was probably waiting for the right moment to escape with the canisters (as we see later on in the film), something he failed to do as Caroline shot her. However, in the end, Nylund’s faith is rewarded as Caroline realizes the bigger picture and helps him rob the biological weapons and destroy them.
Nylund’s character has been used to test Caroline and reveal more about her to the viewers. It was him that left Caroline in the car to die at the hands of the savages. Here we got to know her skills and training. Later on, Nylund’s absence from the meeting made Caroline question his authority. Here we got to know her taste in doubt. Again, when a wounded Nylund tries to convince her about the reality of the canisters, we see her adamant nature when she takes them with her and keeps walking in the direction of Odo.
While Nylund’s faith is rewarded, Caroline’s isn’t. And this is what the film intends to uphold. After making it to Odo, wounded and weak, she finds out that her daughter was never there and that she was used as bait to lure Caroline into accepting the mission. Here, she is faced with utter deceit, for which she herself is partly responsible. She kept on telling herself that her daughter was alive, even though there was no concrete proof of it. She didn’t even care to listen to Nylund when he told her the truth about the canisters. And now she is helpless because she has not only lost her chance of finding her daughter but has also risked millions of lives around the world.
‘Black Crab’ Ending Explained: Is Vanja Alive?
The film builds up in a way that makes us believe, along with Caroline, that she will meet her daughter in some way or the other. But she doesn’t. It is not always that we find what we are looking for. Perhaps, it is rare that we find what we are looking for. Here we are made to understand that the truth, no matter how harsh, is better than uncertainty. If we came to know that Vanja was dead, we would empathize with Caroline. But by not revealing whether Vanja is dead or alive, the film seems to tell us that many times, things in life remain uncertain, pretty much like life itself. And Caroline is the means through which the film establishes this.
However, it doesn’t mean that we will have to look at the negative side of things. Faith is what Caroline grabs on to, to relieve herself of the uncertainty. She doesn’t hinge on the negative side of things as she did earlier, but on the positive side. She believes that her daughter is alive somewhere, and the only way to ensure that she survives is to destroy the vials of the biological weapon. With no way out, she sacrifices her life to destroy them with the positive thought that her daughter will get to live her life the way she wants.
The last scene of “Black Crab” shows Caroline hugging her daughter Vanja under the ice-cold water. There can be two ways to interpret this scene. Either it is to show that the love of a mother and her child will always remain the same, no matter how much the world drowns in war and bloodshed. Or, it can also be that Vanja is already dead. And with Caroline dying, both finally meet in the afterlife. While the latter interpretation sounds surreal, it lets us also look at the brighter side of things, be it of this world or of the one that comes after.
“Black Crab” is a 2022 Swedish action thriller film directed by Adam Berg.