Extraction (2020)

Written by msbreviews on April 22, 2020

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A lot of times, people can’t figure out who was really in control of a particular movie. Was the director truly the person in charge of every creative and technical choice? Were the producers the ones responsible for most of the film? Or was the cast that carried the whole thing? Extraction might be Sam Hargrave’s directorial debut, but he’s been a stunt coordinator in Marvel films, working with the Russo brothers in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame. The complexity of each choreography screams their names all the way through.

Now, I don’t want to take any credit from Hargrave! He has a clear vision of how the film should be like, and he delivers the best Netflix original action movie ever. While it’s true that this last sentence doesn’t really mean that much, it’s genuinely great and far better than every other original action flick distributed by the streaming network. Two key components make Extraction a success: its unbelievable, jaw-dropping action, and Chris Hemsworth’s extraordinary physical (and emotional) performance.

I’ll start with the actor. Chris Hemsworth is one of the most underrated actors working today. Everyone looks at his portrayal of Thor in the MCU, and think that he can’t do anything else. First of all, Thor is one of the characters that changed the most within that universe. Chris has demonstrated both his dramatic and comedic range interpreting this superhero. However, in Extraction, not only his physical display and stunts are out of this world (he actually does quite a lot of them), but he’s able to slow down and really delve into an emotionally compelling state. Brilliant performance!

Nevertheless, the action steals the show. Joe and Anthony Russo help Sam Hargrave in bringing their Marvel’s experience of having to balance dozens of characters at the same time, and the impressive choreography elevates the film so damn much. During the promotion campaign, people kept talking about a stunning oner (one-take sequence), which Chris Hemsworth himself described as “the most complicated action sequence” he’s ever done… They were not joking nor overselling their movie. It’s genuinely a work of art.

I was so surprised by those (approximately) twelve minutes that I stopped the film, went back, and watched them again. I believe it’s one of the pros that home viewing has against theaters. Just to be clear, it’s not actually just one take. It’s a collection of long takes “stitched” together to make it seem (and feel) like a oner. However, it doesn’t diminish this incredibly technical achievement in any way, much on the contrary! The long takes are packed with all kinds of action: car chases, shootouts, knife fighting, hand combat, running, jumping, crawling, you name it.

I’m going to put myself at risk and state that it’s one of the best oners of an action flick in the last few years, especially if we don’t count the two best action sagas of today (Mission: Impossible, John Wick). Throughout the whole runtime, the action is exceptionally filmed. The editing is impeccable, the excitement is always there, and the sense of urgency is never lost. It rarely gets over-the-top, every time our protagonist gets hit, cut, or even shot, it never feels like he should be down and dead. It’s that base of realism inside an action movie that can make it become an outstanding success or a massive fail, and Extraction built a very solid one.

This film has all the ingredients of popcorn-entertainment, and I’m confident it will get huge praise from, at least, the general public. However, it’s evident that the Russo brothers and Hargrave didn’t offer the screenplay the same care that they had with the action. Even though it’s a pretty simple premise, the attempts at making secondary characters important or emotionally resonant fail its target completely. Even Tyler Rake gets a pretty cliche backstory that everyone has seen hundreds of times. I struggled to care for a single person or a relationship.

The reason behind the whole extraction procedure being due to some drug warlords is so formulaic that it’s honestly becoming annoyingly unimaginative. There isn’t even a logical reason for them to be fighting each other over one’s son. The movie also wraps up by leaving tons of questions unanswered regarding its plot, and with a ridiculous try at either being philosophical or actually ruining the entire thing. Finally, I was never a fan of films starting with a flashforward of the protagonist, especially in this genre. It takes away tension and suspense during the actual movie since the viewer knows the flashforward scene hasn’t happened yet.

In the end, Extraction is going to be remembered by its insane action and a fantastic lead performance by Chris Hemsworth. The latter is one of the most underrated actors working today, and he delivers not only a phenomenal physical performance but also an emotionally powerful display. The action is jaw-dropping at every level. The outstanding choreography plus the seamless editing are able to elevate the action into some of the best I’ve seen in the last few years, including a technically mind-blowing oner. The excitement levels are super high throughout the entire runtime, credit not only to the Russo brothers but also to the debutant director Sam Hargrave (who definitely leaves his mark action-wise) in making a great film. However, the focus went all to the action, making the actual story and characters suffer from formulaic storytelling, cliche backstories, and an overall lack of emotional attachment. Still, Extraction is the best Netflix original action movie of its history, so don’t miss it!

Rating: B+