You can’t help but drop your jaw in awe while witnessing certain scenes take place in Extraction, and it shouldn’t surprise you either, once you discover its director is a stuntman. Sam Hargrave, a stunt coordinator on Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War (to say the least), gives us a masterful exercise, not just in fight choreography, but exclusively in capturing combat on-screen, like never-before in the action genre. Hats off to the film’s writers, Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Endgame, Infinity War) for producing such a vigorous action film, adapted from the graphic novel ‘Ciudad’ by Ande Parks and Fernando Gonzalez, about an underground mercenary who’s been hired to capture the son of a criminal and lead him to an escape through India’s dangerous underbelly. The story’s beats landed with incongruous measures in a delayed narrative that struggled to secure our upkeep for the characters in their quest to achieve their overall objectives.
Upon the film’s opening sequence, we’re drawn straightaway into a warzone with an overhead-shot establishing the sundrenched intensity of a third world. The atmosphere resembles Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, except that was in Vietnam; this is a bridge in the slums Mumbai. Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), a mercenary for hire, sits wounded with his back against a car. He shuts his eyes and we’re taken into a flashback of his mental hallucination, where we see a blurred visualization of feet stepping in beach sands on a bright sunny day. Who do the feet belong to? How did Tyler get to this point?
A title card superimposes on the screen and takes us 2 days prior to that moment. We meet an Indian boy named Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), who comes home to be greeted by his guardian Saju (Randeep Hooda) and waits until the night to escape into the city, where he attends a nightclub to meet a friend. The chaos begins when Ovi’s friend sparks a joint in an alley behind the club, and the ruthless authorities put a bullet in his friend’s head, arresting Ovi. Saju meets the boy’s father, Ovi Sr. (Panjaj Tripathi) in a prison cell, who happens to be incarcerated for reasons related to his status in India as a major crime lord. Ovi Sr. threatens Saju to get his son back, or else he’ll use his powers behind bars to have Saju assassinated.
Which takes us to Kimberley, Australia, where we find Tyler upon a cliff, waking up from a snooze and nonchalantly jumping off the overhang, hundreds of feet high and falling feet first into deep waters. Clearly, this audacious man has done this before; it’s probably his morning routine. He sits at the bed of the water in meditation, holding his breath with tranquility and delving deep into another hallucinating flashback blur of the sunny beach and legs on the sand.
Tyler is a broken man of few words obviously carrying a heavy burden on his shoulders and we don’t know why, but we guess it has something to do with this reoccurring flashback he keeps seeing. Tyler arrives to his home where we meet Nik Khan, an elegantly dressed woman of entrancing beauty waiting for his arrival. Nik Khan is played by the immensely skilled and gorgeous Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani, who starred in Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson alongside Adam Driver. This time alongside Chris Hemsworth in a cutthroat performance as his handler by guiding him, commanding him, advising him, and caring for him. As Tyler sits down, Nik Khan begins to nurse his wounds while warning him not to go forward with the extraction. In a debriefing thereafter, Tyler learns that ruthless Indian crime lords are “like the Pablo Escobar’s” of India.
Scenes are often diffusely lit, and the overall hue is reminiscent of the shadows and grime that exist in the slums of India. The action scenes are up close and personal with automatic assault weapons fired at close proximities in conjunction with snipers firing off from great distances. In a later scene, Tyler gets into a convoluted battle with a group of criminals who are holding Oji captive. To which he disposes these wicked offenders, one by one, in brutal hand-to-hand combat. When he finds Oji, their escape begins as Tyler places him in the trunk of a car.
We then meet Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) the Bangladeshi crime boss who’s goons initially kidnapped Oji. They stand on a rooftop with young boys as we see one of Amir Asif’s goons toss a boy off of the building to his death, adding to this group’s ruthlessness. Farhad (Suraj Rikame), a young boy turned henchman of Amir Asif, is called forward, ordered to cutoff his own finger with a knife handed to him by Amir Asif, until they are interrupted by a Colonel, advising Amir Asif that Oji has escaped, to which he commands that all bridges and tunnels out of the city be shut down so Tyler and Oji cannot flee.
Why do we care about Oji’s survival? Why do we want Tyler, a black-market mercenary, to succeed? At this point in the story, these are two questions that have not been answered yet, but we know that the masters behind the lens are guiding us to the answers, sooner than later, we hope. So, we wait for it. We anticipate the discovery of more information regarding Tyler’s backstory and what his deep meditative flashback hallucinations are supposed to mean. Nonetheless, we’re intrigued, because the intensity of their escape and the reality behind the fact that events like this occur, where mercenaries are hired to extract young boys of importance for the exchange of vast sums of money amid a brutal third world country involving criminals holding no remorse is a captivating and shocking sight to witness as an audience.
Nik Khan commands Tyler with guidance from their headquarters to take Oji through alleys and byways as they attempt to escape through the chaotic city. This movie is beyond action; it’s a flat out warzone in the green forests of India with a backdrop of smog, mist and pollution filling the air, captured stunningly by the director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel (Drive, The Usual Suspects). There is an impressive car chase where Tyler is being gunned down by the police, swerving down the dirt roads of India while taking commands from Nik Khan. The camera whip pans throughout the scene’s entirety, panning horizontally through their point-of-view from the moving vehicle, while the cop’s gun them down.
In another chase sequence, this time on foot, the camera dollies following Tyler with Oji as if it’s all shot in one-take. Without a single cut, they jump off a rooftop onto the next building and the camera leaps with them, as if on a harness, without a single edit, continuing smooth and unbroken chase, keeping us fixated in amazement. This impressive, seamless action choreography in conjunction with close range firearm shots and hand to hand combat is a phenomenal accomplishment in filmmaking. In addition to this, another all-in-one shot, seamless long-take occurs in an action sequence amid an apartment complex with a knife fight in a hectic bazaar where the camera steadily fixates on Tyler but moves in every direction he faces while he battles his way amid the road with cars hammering by, fully immersing us in the experience, as if we’ve jumped into the skin of Tyler. The camera shoots in one take, even when we’re in moving vehicles, it doesn’t cutaway or edit to another shot, it’s seamless in its storytelling. It’ll move vertically to show a chopper flying the skies, and fluidly whip back down to the interior of the car while travelling at high speeds. Another impressive subtlety was when we see the famous ‘god shot’, looking down on an explosion as a helicopter flies underneath our point-of-view, further enhancing the “spied on” effect this illustrious aerial shot has; showing the helicopter implies that the shot is from space, something beyond the skies.
In a notable scene where he’s amid an emotional conversation with Nik Khan on-the-phone, Tyler has another flashback of the sunny beach and the mysterious legs on the sand. It’s almost as if she’s reminds him of the image he holds onto in his head. Other than the mere fact that Tyler is a mercenary who needs money and takes a job in extracting this boy, we’re still unaware what that flashback is supposed to mean and we’re still wondering why we should care about this boy Ovi.
Tyler and Ovi finally get to meet each other where they’re trapped in a rat-infested sewer. Their relationship is gradually getting personal. We know there are significant facts for why we’re supposed to care these two characters, and we wait to be enlightened. The scenes up until these moments felt unnecessarily drawn-out, with impressive action sequences keeping us enticed, nonetheless. In later scene, Tyler and Ovi end up seeking shelter with Gaetan, who is played by the film’s director, Sam Hargrave, as a mercenary and partner of Tyler. Tyler begins his bond with Ovi, brings him food and places it on the nightstand as Ovi is tucked in bed. Ovi begins probing him, and we learn, that Tyler hasn’t seen his wife in years, and that his son died in an accident. Tyler’s motivation to save Ovi becomes more about a deeply embedded drive for him to make up for the loss of his own son. We learn that Ovi has a $10 million price tag on his head. Gaetan offers Tyler a scheme to execute Ovi and turn him into Amir Asif for the vast sums of cash, Tyler refuses and engages in a hand-to-hand combat with Gaetan, killing him.
The grand climax of gunfire and bloody violence are reminiscent to Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down as we’re led back at the opening scene on the bridge. Nik Khan is an assassin with a sniper rifle, a fierce and empowering performance by Golshifteh Farahani. Her captivating eyes strength of character are empowering in her fierce impersonation as an enthralling warrior. She’s a beautiful killer.
We finally see the flashback of Tyler’s son on the beach. As clear as day. Blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin. Once the tragedy of Tyler’s son is revealed, the reasons behind his genuine desire to save Ovi become justified, and now we want to root for him, but the justification may have arrived too late.
The climactic crisis is a spectacle of epic proportions filled with excitement. The use of dramatic music is skillfully employed over a motor only shot in overlapping segments that have no synchronous audio tracks. Tyler must do everything he can to save Ovi by being the father Ovi never had, in addition to the redemption for the loss of his own son. This film will satisfy fans of innovative stunt techniques and action sequences with battleground warfare. For those more interested in the thematic elements that are found in the third act, might wish they were crafted earlier in the story. The ending is worth the wait with a payoff that satisfies, no less. Had the enlightenment of Tyler’s backstory arrived sooner, we may have genuinely rooted for him in his quest, as opposed to merely being entertained by finely-crafted, repetitive action sequences in anticipation of the real significance behind it all.