The Mysterious Ending of Netflix's Action Thriller 'Extraction' Keeps You Guessing
Did Chris Hemsworth's Tyler Rake survive or not?
For most of its nearly two-hour runtime, Netfflix's run-and-gun Chris Hemsworth vehicle Extraction, which debuted on Friday and quickly appeared on the platform's list of Top 10 most popular titles, is as straightforward as action movies get. The film's hero, the ruggedly handsome ex-military mercenary Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), must rescue the kidnapped child of a crime boss and return him to his father. Along the way, he murders a dude with a rake, beats up a bunch of random kids who attack him, and shoots an alarming number of anonymous soldiers in the streets of Bangladesh. If you find the John Wick series too dense and plotty, here's the movie for you.
To go with this stripped-down, bare-bones script, which super-producer Joe Russo adapted from a graphic novel titled Ciudad that he co-wrote along with his brother Anthony, director Sam Hargrave outfits his movie with a bone-crushing, locked-in sense of style. Many of the movie's ceaselessly bloody action sequences are shot in long single takes, meant to mimic the adrenaline rush of being in Rake's sweaty fatigues -- or at least meant to replicate the feeling of mashing buttons in a military video game. As a blunt object, Hemsworth is swift and efficient, using his muscular frame to dispatch bad guys, but, as a character, you never fear he'll hit a kill screen and actually die. He's invincible.
Until he's not. In the movie's final section, which involves a battle with a helicopter and a small army of soldiers on a heavily traffic bridge, Rake must make the ultimate sacrifice to save Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the boy he was assigned to protect and subsequently formed a parental-like bond with. After withstanding a hail of bullets, the ambitious henchman Farhad (Suraj Rikame) finishes off Rake, who stumbles off the bridge into the water below. (The fateful plunge echoes the carefree jump off a cliff he makes earlier in the film, our first sign that Rake might not be the most cautious guy in the world.) Having completed his mission, he's free to join his dead son in the afterlife.
But did Rake really die at the close of the film? If I were a doctor observing the injuries he suffered on the bridge and in the previous fights, I'd say he was definitely dead. You don't survive getting shot, stabbed, and run over that many times unless you are actually a Norse god of thunder. On a narrative level, it makes sense for Rake to die on the bridge. He fulfilled his mission on a tactical and metaphoric level, protecting Ovi from his attackers and being there for Ovi in the way he wasn't there for his own son. The death reverberates with the words of wisdom Ovi shares with Rake earlier in the film: "You drown not by falling into the river but by staying submerged in it."
Then again, those same words also explain the movie's final twist. The swirl of activity toward the end of the film, cutting between Ovi returning to daily life and Rake's team-member Nik (Golshifteh Farahani) avenging his death in a restroom, vaguely recalls the final stretch of a number of Christopher Nolan films, and in the last shot Hargrave gives us Extraction's version of the spinning top in Inception. Ovi dives into a pool and spends time contemplating life under the surface as mournful piano music. As he emerges from the water, we see a tall figure standing in the background. Is it actually Rake? A ghost-like vision? Another Hemsworth brother? Ovi turns his head and the film cuts to black.
As with most semi-mysterious endings like this, the ambiguity is the point. In interviews, director Sam Hargrave has mostly avoided explaining it too much, telling Collider that, "What would hopefully happen is people will be discussing that afterwards, and you get to say which one you feel is right for you." However, he goes on to say that in the original cut of the film, Rake definitively died and that test audiences were largely divided about that detail, with some wishing he would fight another day.
From a business perspective, it makes sense for Netflix to want to leave the door open for a potential sequel. (Netflix has struggled to really get an action franchise off the ground, though 6 Underground, Bright, and Spenser Confidential all teased possible next chapters.) According to Hargrave, Netflix executive Scott Stuber also pushed for Rake to live, arguing that it would provide a more emotionally satisfying conclusion. "Basically, what you see in the movie is a compromise," explained Hargrave. "Because a lot of us who are in the original camp didn’t want him to survive, a lot in the new camp wanted him to live."
Even as someone who found Extraction to be a bit derivative and repetitive, I'd be mildly curious to see what Hemsworth and Hargrave, a former stunt coordinator turned director, could do with a sequel. Tyler Rake has a great name, like something plucked from a Tom Clancy Name Generator, and he's the type of protagonist that could be slotted into any number of international stand-offs and personal revenge plots. If Hargrave could find a way for Hesmworth to show a bit more warmth and humor in the role, while still delivering kinetic action set-pieces, this could turn into a reliably silly streaming franchise, like a more high-end version of a WWE Films straight-to-video slugfest. At the very least, the current ending leaves the door open for that.
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