TT Reviews // Extraction
That’s how long one of the action sequences is without a visible cut. 12 minutes. In order to accomplish this, Sam Hargrave (the director) donned a helmet and a vest with retention straps in order to buckle and unbuckle himself from the hood or trunk of various cars to create tracking shot segments that were minutes long at a time at chase speed.
The professional-level gimbal head kept the camera steady during the action while Sam himself was counterbalanced on the hood of the chase vehicle by his massive balls. During filming the dude apparently almost died when he had to sideways limbo move his brain-bucket out of the way of the car Chris Hemsworth was driving. Just another day at the office, eh?
For real, even if you don’t see this movie, try and find that 12 minute fight scene and just watch that. If the movie is a Thanksgiving meal, that sequence is the turkey. The rest is great, but it just ain’t the holiday without that bird.
It’s an Action Movie
Yeah, you aren’t watching this for the plot. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have any or that the plot is bad; the plot is competent and absolutely adequate. It is, however, cliche. But this is an action flick. Naive rescued co-star dragged around a city infested with enemies by a grizzled and talented yet haunted old snake-eater who “just needs the money” but ends up finding his heart. Blah blah blah, this is the plot of every movie where Dad didn’t want the dog but is their biggest fan by the end.
What you’re here for is haymakers and machine guns. Yeah, you’ll get that.
From the get-go I found myself making notes about the fight scenes. It does have some small tropes in it, most notably being the whole “let’s wait to attack him one at a time” strategy nameless bad guys seem to take. But the ‘finisher’ moves were actually gruesome and read as very effective while watching. Normally in an action movie a hero can land some weak, scripted punch and the assailant does four backflips before falling straight unconscious on the ground like a starfish. In Extraction, dudes aren’t put down unless they take two or three rounds to the neck, have their head crushed between an oak table and a countertop, or have their skull invaded by a garden rake. When someone is incapacitated in this movie, it’s certainly no mystery to the audience how they got that way.
Sam is a name you should remember. You’ve likely seen his other large venture in direction, The Mandalorian. However, he’s a career stuntman and stunt coordinator. Other titles under his (black) belt in on-screen ass-kicking include the Avengers movies, The Accountant, The Hunger Games, Deadpool, The Lone Ranger, The Mechanic, a couple X Men movies, and the list goes on. Getting punched in style is the man’s whole deal.
The movie makes you feel the impact of every shot and knee to the kidney. There are some really great directed items that help make that happen, I think.
How the cameraman is treated and allowed to work is really the life-blood of this movie as I see it. With long scenes of pure violence or chase, the framing is really one of the largest narrative elements of this whole affair.
A note that I made about halfway through the movie was that the camera never stops movies. B-roll and establishing shots included. There’s always a slow pan or zoom, or some rack focus to keep your attention spinning to the next thing. There’s always some sort of movement so that you don’t let that guard down in feeling like you can sit still.
It’s not until you get a lul at a safehouse that the camera starts to steady up. Conversations take on that familiar interview angle, but even then it’s not standard. There isn’t much in the way of any over-the-shoulder shot. The angles are close up, and they switch as each character speaks. And they speak with some sort of intensity. Be it worried, or angry, or just drunk, even the still shots are a bit up in their face and as a result the actor is getting right back in yours.
I’m also very glad that the choice was made to keep the camera as steady as possible through the action. The stunt coordination was world class. You’ve got probably the biggest name in opening cans of imaginary whoop-ass directing your film. Shaky cam for silly effects would have been a waste of memory.
Likewise, the frame just got filled with SO much. Fighting on the crowded streets of Dhaka saw the characters constantly interrupted by pedestrians, mopeds, and cars. Even fights with Chris against just one other guy saw the frame come in real close and fill every pixel with as much movement and choreography as possible.
That’s probably the thing that excites me most about this movie. Through complicated sequences and fast bouts of events and fights, you know exactly what’s going on. The camera itself is a turbo competent storyteller. One could damn near enjoy the movie just as much with the volume off and a motorhead song playing in the background. Fuck, man, I’m getting pumped up writing about it.
Well, it is the movies, after all.
Gun accuracy isn’t something I think they were going for with this one. Frag grenades throw flame and sparks. Someone shoots a line of cars with a PKM and they all explode like they ran on tannerite instead of gas. The first time the trigger is pulled in the movie it’s a Browning Hi-Power and the magazine is removed. I guess even slumlords know that disabling the magazine safety is Hi-Power 101. There are a number of what I assume are fake AK’s getting fired with the safety engaged.
The optics struck me oddly in this movie as well. Saju’s UMP is topped with a Trijicon RX30, which is a pretty dated reflex sight for a movie in 2020. Which is whatever, perhaps if all the other optics were of the same era to reflect the regional availability? But then Chris’s character ends the movie by shooting what looks like a Daniel Defense topped with a Leupold D-Evo. Like, who the hell is using that thing? Are they even still making those?
Considering he starts the movie with what looks to be an 11” BCM and an EXPS-2 &G33 combo, why the swap? Where’d the other very American rifle come from in a sea of chinese AK’s? One kid is even rocking an old SMLE like WW1 was still raging.
The big bad sniper at the end of the movie even has an oddball rifle. It’s not some crazy bolt gun or intimidating gas gun like a PSG-1. It’s an HK SL8? A civilian marketed G36 adaptation that shoots 5.56x45mm NATO? The counter-sniper that takes them out uses a SCAR 17S with an LPVO, which makes a hell of a lot more sense in my mind. Perhaps HK really had an idea for them to use some of their lesser known guns, but the old Germans have plenty of other more sensible precision guns that could have fit the bill.
The gunplay itself is pretty good, however. Chris’s Glock gets as much play as his BCM/DD. Considering how much of the action is at what would be called Extreme Close Quarters Combat in the real world, the copious transitions from long gun to side arm served not only to bring you closer to the visceral action, but also just straight showed off the practice Chris had to put in to that draw and choreography. He looked smooth doing it.
Not guns, but I was a medic and I really enjoyed that whoever wrote this script put in a part where the main character accurately describes how to use an Israeli bandage to the kid Ovi that he’s rescuing. Neat.
Some other tidbits, gripes and thoughts.
Saju felt pretty ancillary through most of the movie until the end where the twist alliance is formed. I suppose there could have been a better way to write that. His action scenes were among the best ones rather easily. I suppose I would have liked it if he remained an adversary throughout.
The way Tyler Rake (the main character) talks to Ovi throughout the movie is pretty fun and really shows that gap between Tyler’s experience and Ovi’s innocence and naivete. Tyler tells Ovi to jump on 3 in one scene. After counting to 1 Tyler just throws the boy so he can’t hesitate. Likewise when Ovi exclaims that Tyler just hit someone with a car, he just replies, “yeah.” Cool.
The Farhad B plot was written better than most of the main plot. I really felt the anger and revenge that kid wanted. And he got to have his shot in the end and live. He was a mean little snot but oddly I was rooting for him the whole time. That kid’s gonna make it.
Whoever was the advisor on gear decided Chris’s character should wear elbow pads. Which... why? No one wears elbow pads. It’s such an unimportant detail but I had to wear them in Basic Training and was told they were mandatory protective items, but then when I got with some real units I found that no one gave two shits about them. So that just stuck with me.
The beginning underwater scene and the callback at the end were clever. I almost missed it, glad I didn’t.
G was a good guy and got did dirty.
It’s a roller coaster ride. If you like roller coasters, it’s going to be one of your favorite roller coasters. And I don’t mean that in the Scorsese underhanded way, I mean that in high regards since this movie has such a mastery of momentum. A concept that is paramount to roller coaster design.
I place a high value in competence and this movie is just dripping with it. The sets are stellar, the choreography is stellar, the cinematography is stellar. If you can watch this flick without getting tense in your chair at least once then you’re probably living some sort of Terry Schaivo situation. But if you’re here in the land of the living and warm-blooded, this movie is a guarantee to ball your fists at least once.
If you’re a turbo gun dude, you’ll see some interesting stuff in here but it’s not the focus like John Wick. The smelling-distance pistol play is better than I can ever remember seeing before, though.
It’s a must watch. And it’s on Netflix. Did I mention that yet? It’s a fucking Netflix original. I know the running joke is that Netflix will greenlight anything but couple this with Triple Frontier, Close, and other tactical in-house productions, the site is making a real run at taking the action monopoly away from Hollywood.
Extraction, watch it. You’ll be bummed you didn’t.