Director: Sam Hargrave
Screenplay: Joe Russo
Extraction is Netflix’s latest must-have action/thriller where black market mercenary, Tyler Rake must travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh to rescue an Indian drug lord’s kidnapped son, Ovi Mahajan.
Having Chris Hemsworth as your protagonist is automatically going to draw viewers to watch – no matter what the plot is. But present him as a world-weary action hero and everyone is on the edge of their seats. While there’s no denying that the film is a romp with some moments that make the audience say ‘nice’ outloud, what lets it down is the flimsy script and overall storyline.
The film begins with a cold open of Tyler Rake, our bloody action hero in what appears to be a desperate fight for life against unknown enemies. We’re given no indication of what he’s fighting for but what we do know is that it doesn’t look good for him – he’s covered in blood and looks like he’s about to die at any moment. As he rests against the car, he has a colourful yet blurred flashback of a child playing in the water before the title card flashes on screen. Our protagonist is introduced and then they’re quickly onto our next character, Ovi Mahajan.
The character introductions are the strongest parts of the writing; it’s short, sweet with enough detail that we can see who the character’s basic goal is – for Ovi, he is clearly suffocated by his father and Suja’s regime and for Tyler, he has some trauma and doesn’t care much for his own life.
The premise for the film is also quickly established – Ovi has been captured by another drug lord and Tyler is sent in to extradite him. This seems to be the sole goal for Tyler throughout the film, to save and protect Ovi. However, when he’s got Ovi in his hands after only twenty minutes, it’s clear to the audience that there’s going to be more involved with the plot before Ovi is sent home. This is where the film gets flimsy and doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself.
In most films, the characters go through a journey and have a solid character arc so that they are different from how they were when we first see them at the beginning of the film. Within the first few scenes, their character flaws should be introduced alongside their goal for the film – the audience put two and two together and should see that the goal for the character will help them address their character flaw.
Let’s look at Tyler first. Hargrave is heavy-handed in showing the audience that Tyler is an alcoholic, his first flaw which is a character trait that is just dropped halfway through the film and never addressed again. First strike. The second ‘flaw’ that’s presented is that from his past trauma, he can’t fight against children or hurt them. Again, this is where the film gets a little hazy on what point it’s trying to make or whether it’s trying to make any point at all. There are times throughout the film where I wondered whether they were making a commentary on child soldiers which is sadly very much a thing – but again, this is a plot point that is raised and then dropped.
In the second act, Tyler meets ‘the Goonies from hell’ when he finds himself up against Asif’s child army. He battles with himself to not hurt them but in the end, has to. This is presented as his weakness as it’s always juxtaposed with Asif’s carelessness for child safety – the first time we see him, he orders a child to be thrown from the roof. So I’m not really sure what point there’s trying to make here as . . . is it really a flaw to not want to hurt children?
I couldn’t write this review without talking about the one, long shot. While many people said it was ripping off Sam Mendes’ 1917, this really isn’t the case – one shots have been around for years and I honestly think it suits action films so much. It makes you feel like you’re really in the moment so I can comment Hargrave for that directorial choice. However, the rest of the direction is kind of… lacklustre? It seems like all of the hard work went into that sequence then the rest of the shots are there without meaning.
Moving on, let’s look at Ovi. In his first scene, it establishes that he has no real sense of being or worth. He doesn’t talk to the girl that he likes – again, another point that’s dropped – and he feels out of place in his own home. When he is saved by Tyler, he describes himself as a ‘package in brown paper’ and feels like he’s just being thrown from pillar to post with nobody actually caring for him. This however, just makes him kind as he takes a liking to Tyler and wants to show that he cares for him. He convinces him to open up about his past and why he is the way that he is. The kindness is soon forcibly stripped away from him when he has to kill Jim Hopper (or Gascar. Whatever.) and he is forced to become a child soldier – even if for a moment. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
By the third act, the pacing has been completely lost and the action scenes are becoming too shoot-out-y – especially with the lack of soundtrack so it’s purely diegetic sound which becomes too much to watch. Until we then see Tyler being killed by Fahrad, one of Asif’s child soldiers – which puts a spanner in the mix. To kill off your protagonist is an effective move and in this scenario, it works. Tyler is world-weary, he blames himself for his son’s death and he’s finally going to be reunited with him – shown by the fact that he finally gets to see his face in the flashback.
But then Hargrave shoots himself in the foot (or neck) by the ending. We skip to eight months later and we see Ovi and Asif living their lives as before – Asif, with his extravagance and Ovi with his loneliness. Asif goes to the bathroom and someone steps alongside him – Nik – and she promptly shoots him in the face. Now, I’ve not mentioned Nik in this review because she was such a boring character that I kept forgetting existed. The fact that she’s the one to take out the big boss is so frustrating. There’s no emotional impact. If Ovi had been the one to take him out then we would have felt some pathos that he turned into what he hated but it would have felt more of a redemption.
Then it gets worse. Ovi has been walking alongside a pool this entire time and when he pops up from the water, there’s a blurred figure of a man who looks oddly like Tyler before the credits roll. I cannot explain to you the face I pulled at this. Bringing Tyler back had no emotional impact and stripped away the impact of him dying and being ‘reunited’ with his son – leaving it open as a ‘is it Tyler, is it not?’ Inception-like ending was just lazy and frustrating, even if I’m sure Hargrave felt it was profound.
So, to answer the question in the headline – did Tyler Rake survive at the end of Extraction? – who cares? The only drive the audience had for Tyler to survive was firstly to protect Ovi and to prove himself to the son that he lost. Once he had completed this, it was almost cathartic for him to sacrifice himself for Ovi while finally being at peace. Finishing the film with him returned from the dead was forced and made no sense. If they were going to bring him back, they should have fully brought him back and had him being the one to kill Asif in the bathroom. I can even imagine the smile Chris Hemsworth would have done.
All in all, the film was fine. It made me feel enough to write this post but I don’t think it will merit a rewatch. What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments below and let me know if there are any other films you would like to see reviewed on Scene Siren.