As a busy UK script consultant I still make time to watch as many new films as possible (even if, for the most part, I prefer older films). At the moment you can’t get much newer than Extraction (2020) a first film from director and ex- stunt co-ordinator Sam Hargrave.
The film is based on a graphic novel, so you’d expect something with a strong visual style, and in a film directed by an ex-stuntman and stunt co-ordinator, it would be fair to expect a few stunts.
On both counts, the film delivers, the camera and stunt work is at times exemplary. The film mines a visual style started in Hong Kong, but moved into the west by the Bourne series of films. There are punishing fight sequences and shootouts, complex one take car chases and crashes. It moves, fast, the fights and shootouts are bruising, the audience is thrown out windows with the characters.
But…and it’s a big BUT… the film tries its best to bring some emotion into it the fast moving proceedings, and lead actor Chris Hemsworth does well and works hard… but it feels forced, like a box ticking exercise, and finally, despite everyone’s best efforts the film is as emotionally empty as a video game. And when a film is empty emotionally, and has no real human weight, it tends to be forgettable, so despite all the stunts, crashes and eye watering camera trickery, the film doesn’t work beyond the remit of being a watchable, action packed couple of hours.
Extraction has a similar plot to Tony Scott’s Man on Fire (2004), another action packed, visually exciting film – but one with more genuine emotion, and actual weight. Extraction, also reminded me a little of the first Bourne film ‘The Bourne Identity (2002)‘ which again, had more genuine emotion, we felt for Bourne and cared more.
Ultimately, the problem with Extraction is a tough one to solve, it comes in the script, which must walk a fine line with Hemsworth’s character, and his inner turmoil and hurt. The scriptwriter needs to find a way to get under his lead characters skin, and it’s a tight rope between making the character a cry baby and an indestructible hero (even ‘The Grey’ (2011) makes a better fist of this type of characterisation).
Extraction is still a great technical achievement and a very watchable, stripped down action picture. But who cares about that…
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. His UK script coverage service and script development service are highly sought after.
You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.
You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org.