After conquering the box office with a one-two punch of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Anthony and Joe Russo have been branching out beyond the superhero genre – bringing their brand of moviemaking to relatively smaller films.
One of these new films was just released on Netflix and stars MCU alum Chris Hemsworth in the lead. Extraction, which is produced by the Russos, is a pretty good action film in a genre that is too often in danger of growing stale with unrealistic violence and destruction porn. First-time director Sam Hargrave, who was a stunt coordinator on several MCU films, infused the film with excitement and urgency few films in the genre achieve.
What was particularly exciting to me was how much the film subtly embraces a key sub-genre of the action film and its more spiritual allusions.
The Good: Action!
Sam Hargrave is a fairly good action director. I commend him for thinking outside the box in several key scenes to ramp up the adrenaline. One favorite, in particular, was the extended chase sequence that was shot to look like it was one long take. The camera went in and out of cars, buildings, and the like with an effortless flow but still maintained the danger. Threats came out of literally every corner and genuinely surprised me. The violence was harsh but realistic and only added to the verisimilitude of the situation.
Good action directors know how to “sell” the action. Each punch thrown has to feel like it hurts to the audience. That’s usually how I know an action film is good. Hargrave knows how to do this and is keenly exceptional at it. There were many hits and shots that elicited genuinely excited “ohhhhh”s out of me. The sound design, stunt work, visual effects, and fight choreography work extremely well together.
The Bad: Shake, Rattle and Roll
Extraction was a fun ride, but it was a very shaky one – and I sometimes felt like I wanted to get off. Hargrave followed the annoying trend of action directors (including the Russos, I’m afraid) of over-indulging in the shaky-cam. It was so bad in places that I had to look away. The shaky-cam led to a little incoherence with some of the action scenes – losing crucial comparative geography between the hero and his adversaries.
The Suffering Savior
Extraction was not a new story, but it didn’t have to be, and frankly, most action films aren’t (in this genre, the journey is more important and exciting than the destination). It’s the “keep this person alive” situation: Chris Hemsworth played Tyler Rake, a guilt-plagued Australian mercenary tasked with bringing the son of an Indian drug lord back home – all the while running a gauntlet of criminals who want to take back the boy or kill him.
This story is used often in action films because it’s simple and relatable. Human beings have this feeling within them that they want to be saved, or know they have someone on their side who will run through hell and back to rescue them. This feeling comes from our connection to God. Some people fill that feeling with God while others fill it with worldly things like government or individual politicians.
What Extraction did with this story was lean heavily on the analogy of God’s love for us. The mission may have started out a cold and simple for Tyler Rake, but it ended up being elevated to something higher.
Once it was clear that Rake’s benefactor was not going to pay the fee to get Ovi back to his father and in fact was only using Rake and his team to locate the boy, Rake’s teammates urged him to abandon Ovi. A friend of Rake’s wanted to kill the boy and split the reward. The boy was the son of a criminal, they said. He wasn’t worth saving. But by the end of the film, Rake was sacrificing everything to protect the boy and get him back to his father – if for no other reason than to redeem his soul for the loss of his own child.
“In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:14
In the Books of Matthew and Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep. The shepherd leaves his flock of 99 to search for the one lost and rejoices when he finds it. The parable was meant to illustrate that God cares about the salvation of each and every person. No matter what sin they may have committed, or who their parents are, every life is precious to God – and he does not want anyone to perish. He loves us all as His children.
However, God is still just and sin must be punished. In the eyes of God, none of us are worthy to be in His presence and are condemned. But God made His way to earth in the form of Jesus to save us from our sin. Because Jesus willingly sacrificed himself, we can be reconciled with the Father – literally going to hell and back.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Rake suffered, bled, and (apparently) died for Ovi. But unlike Rake, God didn’t suffer and save us out of any sense of duty or guilt, but out of love for us.
Bringing the analogy home were bookend scenes featuring Rake and Ovi immersed in a pool of water, alluding to the baptism ritual of rebirth in Christ. Rake did so at the beginning of his mission, much like Jesus. And Ovi did his immersion at the end of the film, similarly to a new follower of Christ – with a spectral-looking form of a man (who was obviously framed to be Rake) watching over him as he came to the surface.
The Last Word
Extraction is a good action film that is definitely worth your time if you’re a Netflix subscriber. With amazing action that delivers genuine excitement, it was a great moviegoing experience overall. I’m hoping that, with that open-ended ending, we will see more of Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake in the future – saving other people with his newfound sense of purpose.
Tyler Rake went through a thoroughly hostile environment to save one boy’s life. God saved us from something far worse than a torrent of gunfire lobbed by a cadre of criminals. He saved us from an eternity without Him – one of total hopelessness and despair, free from beauty and goodness. He suffered and died a terrible death so we could experience life everlasting. That is a Savior worth following.
Skin color doesn’t matter and has nothing to do with Hemsworth as a bankable star (which is what Netflix needed to sell the film) who has worked with the Russos before. The yellow filter was used well in the film to highlight the danger of the situation and has been used on other films taking place in India like the great Slumdog Millionaire, which you may think is more culturally sensitive. So does that mean that Slumdog is somehow racist? Please.
Watch the movie or don’t watch it, but don’t attribute despicable motivations like that. It’s not a good look.
Originally posted on Reel World Theology.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda,
Golshifteh Farahani, Pankaj Tripathi, and David Harbour
Written by Joe Russo
Based on a story by Ande Parks, Joe Russo, and Anthony Russo
and the graphic novel Cuidad by Ande Parks, Joe Russo,
and Fernando León González
Directed by Sam Hargrave