If you’re a fan of action movies or just a Netflix subscriber with plenty of time on your hands due to the continued restrictions put in place thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, chances are that you’ll have seen Extraction by now. Chris Hemsworth’s most recent foray into action hero territory outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been dominating the cultural conversation all weekend, generating huge buzz for the intensity of the set-pieces, but it hasn’t proven to be immune to backlash, either.
While the movie’s entire running time is basically just Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake charging from scene to scene in a wall-to-wall barrage of fist-fights, knife battles, shootouts and vehicular chases, the standout moment is easily the 12-minute action sequence that’s craftily edited together to make it appear as one uninterrupted take. That’s a hugely ambitious thing to attempt in any movie, not least one from a first-time filmmaker, and in a recent interview, director Sam Hargrave went into more detail about how he managed to pull it off.
“It took us from conception to execution, probably four or five months. I had to write the scene to flow the right way, and to let people know that it was one continuous take and where it went from here to there, because there were story points you had along the way. It can’t just be an action scene for the sake of action, it has to hit the key story points and reveal things about the character and show the development of the relationship between Tyler and Ovi. There are so many things in there that you have to tell.”
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These kind of continuous takes are becoming increasingly commonplace in modern filmmaking, but Extraction found a new way of approaching the ‘oner’ by taking it from inside a building to downstairs, through the streets, inside a vehicle, onto the rooftops and back down again, which unsurprisingly presented a huge logistical challenge for the crew.
“In a day, it would be between three and six different long sequences, and they could be anywhere from four to five minutes that we need, 30 seconds, or whatever those pieces are that fit together. You’d have to do it until you got it right. You could do the whole thing, and you get three minutes and 59 seconds in, but if you know you’ve got a trip and stumble or one of the background looks at the camera, you’ve got to go do all of it over again, because there’s no safety net. They’re all great actors, but there’s a certain quality, a certain visceral, tangible feeling to the performance that you can only get by being in the real space and pushing actors as hard as we did.”
It might not bring anything new to the table from a narrative or dramatic perspective, but Hargrave has firmly established himself as one of action cinema’s next big things with Extraction, with the intricacies of the fight choreography and kinetic visual style helping the movie stand out in a genre that’s always been over-crowded and subject to cliche.