Sam Hargrave is already well-known to take giant leaps. The American stuntman, actor and stunt coordinator have had multiple pairings with the Russo brothers in various installments within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes the highly coveted Avengers: Endgame. So, it is not too exaggerating to say that the man takes risky jumps for breakfast, bruises his hands and knees for lunch, and writes his own stunt choreographies at night.
Still, the leap that we are talking about today is rather enormous, even for a person with such physical dexterity. Jumping from the position of a stunt coordinator, and landing right into the director’s chair for Extraction is by no means a simple feat, but with proper endorsements by Russo brothers and the big-shots at Netflix, it became very possible.
Extraction features another frequent collaborator of the MCU, Chris Hemsworth, in the role of Tyler, a suicidal mercenary with a haunting past. Tyler is called-in to execute the extraction ops when the son of an Indian drug-lord, Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiwal), is kidnapped by a rival gang helmed by Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli). Tyler partners with Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani) and Saju Rav (Randeep Hooda) to save Ovi, but realizes that the mission is not as naive as it appears to be.
Hargrave dedicated a noticeable length of the film establishing the complexities and hardships in slums of Dhaka and India, and then contrasting them with the ultra posh cocoon that drug-lord son Ovi has been living in. This does not only give a more dynamic perspective towards the plot, but also serves as a grounding point for Ovi’s personality to grow. Kid has to be worthy to get his ass saved by an Asgardian god in his mortal form, and thus some sensible way of thoughts despite his ultra-entitled life does help to bolster the narrative.
That very mantra of “a deserving kid needs help” pretty much stays constant throughout the film, though I could not help but to adore how Extraction packs plenty of surprises into the events. Really, even some straightforward ones, like “kid gets kidnapped”, or “kingpin orders his man to work” were spiced up with some twists. Don’t get me wrong, that does not make Extraction a complicated film to understand, it just pushes the characters against a backdrop of a complicated world, which is a desirable trait.
Once the first trigger is pulled in the ops, the momentum gets rolling and the gunfire literally never stops, save for one or two occasions halfway through the story. If you’re into Extraction purely for the action, or for the Indian John Travolta (that’s the nickname that I gave to Saju, his hairstyle will explain to you why), then you are in for a treat. A wholesome one, that is.
Hargrave really polished Extraction to perfection for this one. The coverage of action specialization spans from dusty car chases which intend to choke you in case that the masks that you wear during this pandemic haven’t, all the way to sniping battles, and everything in between. The guns (and biceps) look beefy enough. The gunshots are ear-piercing, which they should be. The knife action will haunt you for days. These just prove that when you have a stuntman director at helm, you will never run out of ideas for the action choreography. Just take John Wick for an example.
But differing from Chad Stahelski’s take on John Wick, which often pits Wick against his opponents at rainy nights, Hargrave preferred to orchestrate most of the action sequences during the day, when excessive dusts of Dhaka and the scorching sun are invisibly taking tolls on members of the story, heroes and villains alike. Extraction also tends to push in more extras into each shot to blend in with the action scenes, which made them closer towards a real life experience.
Somehow, traces of Roger Deakin’s legendary cinematography for 1917 can be found in Extraction. About halfway through the film, there was a series of action sequences, where the shots were unmistakably longer than the rest. I suspect that they were intentionally and arduously extended, perhaps until the point that the camera-shot complexity starts to dig-in unreasonably into Netflix’s bank account, or the point that they need to hire Deakins himself for the job.
Undeniably, under this cinematic approach, the action feels a whole lot more engaging. You feel like a little GoPro attached behind Tyler’s shoulders, witnessing all of his moves as he breaks doors, blows up enemies’ heads and cracks bones in real time. You can treat Tyler as your virtual tour guide as he lets you feel and navigate through the crowded blocks of Dhaka, doing the exact same thing that tour guides always do – annoying and terrifying the locals.
It is safe to say that Netflix would not have placed all their bets on Hargrave’s aptitude for action-engineering, if they couldn’t find an equally compelling team to work on the story. They knew that in order for Extraction to work, they needed good adhesion between the action scenes, which is why the work of the Russo brothers within this area is crucial.
The script needs to underpin the intensity that is constantly exhibited in the course of the blood spills, which it does tremendously well. Run into a drug kingpin at the wrong time, and you might be up for some sadistic punishment. That is just one of the ways in which the script visualizes the gravity of danger that constantly envelopes the protagonists.
Despite constant nail-biting tension, occasionally the viewers can find some light-hearted moments in the form of interaction between Tyler and Ovi, or even, Tyler’s last name. If you’re not in the mood to giggle, perhaps the moments when Tyler finally confronts his past, and some other heart-rending moments might grapple you. At the end of the day, when the curtain closes and Extraction presents its last card, there’s no denying that many will be caught by surprise.
Extraction combines crisp, perfectly-sized action pieces with a good variety of techniques, with a sensibly written plot that compels the viewers in between the former. It is almost a dad movie retold via the brawn of a mercenary’s tale, yet moving enough for some tearful moments. The splendid, thought-provoking ending simply propels the film into another height, that quite frankly, unattainable by many action flicks, even those hailing from bigger screens—The Film Addict
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