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At the start of the second half of director Sam Hargrave’s Extraction, the Chris Hemsworth-played protagonist Tyler Rake is put at the center of what unfolds as a beautiful and insane action sequence. For a full 12 minutes the camera doesn’t blink as Rake works to evade pursuers and simultaneously protect Rudhraksh Jaiswal's Ovi, a kid he has rescued from a kidnapping, and the experience will leave viewers breathless. It’s cinematic awesomeness that will have action movie fans grinning ear-to-ear – and it’s a particularly good thing given how much work went into putting it together.
With Extraction set to hit Netflix this weekend, I had the pleasure of doing a video interview with Chris Hemsworth and Sam Hargrave, and right out the gate the first thing I felt compelled to ask about is the film’s most impressive achievement. As you’ll learn watching the video below, not only did it take months to develop, but the film’s star said that it required more personal preparation than any other action sequence he’s done:
Chris Hemsworth is obviously not a lightweight when it comes to doing action movies, as his resume is filled with his adventures as Thor alongside titles like Snow White & The Huntsman, Men In Black International, but his work on Extraction demanded a bit more from him than any of his previous blockbuster experiences. The production going for the one shot look not only demanded some extremely long takes, but also a great deal of specificity in choreography, and getting everything right took practice. Hemsworth explained,
It was definitely the most amount of preparation and work that I had done within a single action sequence for any action film… [I]t required a lot of these continuous takes where we couldn't hide behind different camera angles or edits. It meant we had to get every move perfect. And if we got 95% of the way through the sequence, and I stumbled on the last step, back to the start and do it again.
Perfection is a tough ask in any circumstance, so as much as Chris Hemsworth prepared for the epic Extraction sequence there were still sections that had to be done over and over again. It was exhausting for the performers, but Hemsworth explained that it was a method that ultimately benefited the final cut of the film:
We were doing 20, 25 takes at times. And Sam just wouldn't let us rest, on purpose though, and in a great way, cause it meant that that exhaustion was right there on screen and there was no acting required.
Written by Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo, Extraction centers on Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake – an experienced mercenary who has his skills put to the test when he is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of a local drug lord. Initially the mission goes well, as Rake is able to free the kid from his captors, but everything goes wrong when the drug lord reneges on the deal.
It’s shortly after Rake learns about this duplicity that the one shot sequence begins to unfold, and Sam Hargrave revealed that it took a lot of planning to get it done – particularly given the limitations of the production not being a massive studio blockbuster. The shooting approach wasn’t something that was initially in the script, Hargrave explained, but instead it was discovered along the way as the most effective way of the movie doing what it needed to do:
From kind of conception to completion it took almost five months, cause it was on the page. Joe had written a very impressive and entertaining action scene, and when we saw our schedule that we were up against we kind of had to pare that down and say, 'How do we do this?' And I really wanted to keep Chris at the center of this, his character, in the center of this piece. And so we devised the idea of doing it as one long continuous shot.
By setting up the one shot, the audience is perpetually alongside Tyler Rake, and not provided the certain distance that comes with a cut and an angle change. As long as the camera is rolling, you know that the protagonist isn’t out of the woods, and it creates a deeply immersive aesthetic.
This was the exact goal that Sam Hargrave had in the construction of the excellent Extraction sequence, and in retrospect he is very happy with the results:
Instead of the traditional cut-cut-cut in a fast paced action scene, you allow [the audience] to experience it in real time so that they can have the surprises when Chris' character gets surprised, or they're tired when he's tired. So do it all in real time seemed to the fit the movie… [I]t was a very rewarding experience.