EXTRACTION: Stylistic and Maybe a Little Problematic

The Russo brothers and Chris Hemsworth- names that immediately conjure the next Marvel adventure, bright in color and ultimately, in context and message.  Their latest collaboration with Sam Hargrave for his directorial debut, Netflix’s EXTRACTION (2020), couldn’t be farther from the works you’re used to seeing from them, and now, they’ve answered the question: ‘what if Marvel went gritty?’

EXTRACTION Poster, available on Netflix starring Chris Hemsworth

The film follows Tyler Rake’s (Chris Hemsworth) efforts to rescue an imprisoned drug lord’s son, Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), after being kidnapped by a rival gang.  His mission is complicated by an array of characters, each with their own motives for locating and acquiring the boy.

Overall, EXTRACTION, gives the audience exactly what it wants and expects from an action film.  It delivers in the cinematography arena, in that every good action film MUST have interesting lighting, camera work, and sound, or it’s just a fist fight in the street.  The film leans heavily on low- key lighting, especially during its action scenes, which gives it a darker and more suspenseful tone. 

The camerawork during these scenes, however, really shines.  Fight scenes are dominated by long takes and constant camera movement.  As the camera winds its way around the main conflict, the viewer feels as though they are within the action and are trying to avoid being hit themselves by the characters. 

What’s also impressive is Hargrave’s use of diagetic and non- diagetic sound in these moments.  For any readers that are unfamiliar with the term, diagetic sound is sound that is created within the context of the story (e.g. a ringing phone a character must answer, etc.), while non- diagetic sound is sound added to enhance the audience’s experience but is not actually happening in the story itself (e.g. opera music playing over a montage, etc.).  Hargrave uses purely diagetic sound during some action scenes, and it really pairs well with the camera- work and long takes in fully immersing the viewer into the story.

Chris Hemsworth in EXTRACTION on Netflix

While stylistic elements of EXTRACTION hit the mark, it may have some problematic points.  It seems as though the trope of white saviour has been employed again for an action film: it is up to Rake to infiltrate and navigate the corruption of another country and culture, and only he is capable of saving Ovi.  While this seems like a matter of just not being mindful, another instance in the film which might make the audience uncomfortable is the brutal and vicious altercation between Rake and a group of child soldiers.  While child soldiers are a serious reality,  it’s just plain uncomfortable to see an adult throwing around young children.  The writing makes their place within the plot clear, but the purpose of having Hemsworth fight “the Goonies from Hell” on- screen is unclear.  It also just fundamentally goes against the core of his character. 

The film is steeped in motifs of masculinity and fatherhood, and what those words mean to each character differs.  While the men seem to have their definitions figured out, the audience follows young Ovi’s struggle to determine his own amidst the violence and chaos.  Hemsworth Jaiswal’s relationship keeps the film interesting and adds story elements that keep the viewer engaged and interested, and both deliver solid performances.

All in all, EXTRACTION is a well- done action film.  It’s stylistically engaging and interesting, and the story has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing, but not confused.  It may have its problematic points, but essentially is an entertaining watch, just don’t overthink it.


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