Extraction review: Breakneck and bonkers, Chris Hemsworth’s Netflix film is the shot of adrenaline we need right now
Director - Sam Hargrave
Cast - Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Priyanshu Painyuli, Golshifteh Farahani, David Harbour, Pankaj Tripathi
Gone are the days when fancy New York Times profiles of prominent filmmakers would be accompanied by pictures of them carefully framing a shot, their hands outstretched and a look of stern concentration on their faces. In 2020, rules no longer apply. And no feature on director Sam Hargrave would be complete without a picture of him tethered to the bonnet of a chase vehicle racing across cramped streets, a compact digital camera in his hands and a crash helmet on his head.
If you’re into this sort of thing then you’ve no doubt seen behind-the-scenes footage of Hargrave filming a key action scene in his debut feature, Extraction, like a daredevil on drugs. And if you aren’t, you really must. Nearly all promotional material for the film, due out on Netflix on April 24, seems to be highlighting this scene, but none of it truly captures the brilliance of what Hargrave and his team have accomplished.
Watch the Extraction trailer here
And that’s a good thing, because experiencing it as it unfolds, transforming and evolving before your eyes, is a sight to behold. In many ways, the scene is the centrepiece of Extraction, stylistically and tonally similar to the one in the 2017 spy thriller Atomic Blonde, on which Hargrave served as stunt coordinator.
Choreographed to appear as if it has been shot in one take, the Extraction action sequence begins with a car chase, which turns into a foot chase, peaks with a knife-fight, and ends with a thunderous mic-drop that would surely have sent a packed house into rapturous applause had the film been released in theatres and not on streaming. Although I suspect more than a few viewers at home might unleash a silent cheer.
In it, Hargrave displays a flair for inventive camerawork, a skill for building tension, and an unexpected talent for injecting moments of fist-pumping humour. He switches perspectives and scale seamlessly, all thanks to intricate choreography and a handful of excellent performances, and creates an action scene for the ages -- one that could almost function independently as a short film, with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Co-produced by Joe and Anthony Russo, Extraction, whose popularity in India stems from the fact that it was largely filmed here and features a bunch of talented local actors, is the shot of adrenaline that we all need right now. It only helps that in addition to being a spectacular action film, Extraction also happens to be a well-written drama as well.
Structured in the straightforward manner of a classic Western, particularly the 1953 classic Shane (which has also inspired films such as Logan and Children of Men), Extraction stars Chris Hemsworth as a morally ambiguous mercenary named Tyler Rake, who is handpicked to stage a daring rescue mission to locate and extract an Indian drug lord’s teenage son, who has been kidnapped by a rival Bangladeshi mobster and hidden somewhere in the of city of Dhaka.
While the Indian gangster, played by Pankaj Tripathi, appears in just one scene, his son, played by Rudhraksh Jaiswal, is essentially the film’s second lead. Jaiswal more than holds his own opposite Hemsworth, who plays Rake with the swagger of Thor and the intensity of Steve McQueen.
Some of the film’s best scenes are the ones in which Rake and young Ovi Mahajan bond, stealing moments of brief respite while the entire city of Dhaka descends upon them, trying to stop them from crossing the border into India.
These scenes are necessary and they bring a much-needed balance to a film that is breakneck beyond belief. Rarely do the performances in movies such as this get any attention, but both Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda, who plays an associate of Mahajan’s, are excellent. I wish I could discuss Hooda’s Saju, a fascinating, samurai-like character, in more detail, but I’m afraid revealing anything else about him would be spoiling the film. He’s a tree of a man, but also enigmatic and cool, with a moral code hidden underneath the combat gear.
Joe Russo’s screenplay is lean, but the manner in which the plot is structured -- streamlined yet brimming with backstory -- feels both classic and very comic booky. Extraction is a redemption tale — for both Tyler Rake and Netflix.