Every shot in a movie is designed to tell a story, but there’s one in “Extraction” that stuntman-turned-director Sam Hargrave particularly fought for.
The action film, now streaming on Netflix, stars Chris Hemsworth as mercenary Tyler Rake, who has to rescue Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the 14-year-old son of an imprisoned Indian drug kingpin, who has been kidnapped by a rival.
Shortly after the film begins, Rake extracts Ovi from his kidnappers, and a heart-racing shootout ensues as our heroes are pursued across the rooftops and streets of Bangladesh. The sequence lasts 11 minutes and was shot as a one-take thrill ride.
The idea was to allow the audience to experience the adrenalin rush of what would happen in a situation like that, Hargrave explains. He describes the sequence as a cross between Jason Bourne and James Bond movies — “except we didn’t have the time or money” that they do. “But,” he adds, “I didn’t want it to come off as a poor effort.”
Hargrave, who designed the memorable stairwell fight sequence in “Atomic Blonde,” met with some resistance when he proposed his plan for “Extraction.” The main objection was that he had too many points of view to shoot: Ovi, Rake, the gunmen and the people on the street. “I said, ‘Let me do my due diligence,’” the director says.
That meant taking his production designer, Phillip Ivey, and walking the locations to size up what would be needed. He brought along a camera and went through the shots he wanted to capture. “We started to weave it together,” Hargrave says. “Just the pre-production took around three months.”
After eight such scouting missions, it was time to shoot. “I would have loved the challenge of doing it in the one shot, but we didn’t have the luxury,” he explains. “We had to break it up over 10 days. There are 37 sequences that we stitched together.”
Having been a stuntman with more than 80 credits, Hargrave learned moviemaking by working with Joe and Anthony Russo, who produced “Extraction,” and from David Ayer and Michael Bay.
It was Joe Russo who heard of Hargrave’s desire to direct and brought the script to his attention, thinking the film would be an ideal debut. An early draft saw the story set in South America, but Hargrave opted for Bangladesh. “I wanted to introduce people to a part of the world they were not familiar with,” he says.
With Newton Thomas Sigel as his director of photography, Hargrave was able to highlight the beauty of the city’s landscape and make the color pop against Ivey’s sets. “Each character had their own palette,” Hargrave says. “I gave Rake green for growth and Ovi blue for water.” Every moment was carefully thought out, with the director planning exactly how he wanted to visually tell his story.
“With action films, it’s important to have emotional connection with the characters, otherwise it doesn’t resonate,” he says. “Once you understand what’s driving them, you are invested in their journey. The temptation is to focus on the action, but I was fortunate to have great mentors, and I learned that action is only there to move the story forward or reveal something about the character.”