Writer’s note: The second paragraph of this article (just below the first image) contains a basic outline of the film’s premise. There are no spoilers that weren’t already inferred in the film’s own trailer. However, if you want to completely avoid potential spoilers, skip over the second paragraph.
Whenever a film proves to be financially successful, there’s little reason for the filmmakers to smooth out the kinks when producing sequels. For instance, The Transformers franchise was highly panned for most of its run, yet the films consistently made up to $1 billion dollars, so the studio didn’t bother addressing any complaints. After all, if the formula continues working, why bother fixing it? From that perspective, it’s rather encouraging when a sequel actively improves on the original’s failings, even if it had been a hit. Some notable examples of this include The Suicide Squad (2021), Logan (2017) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), all of which greatly improved upon their predecessors. Therefore, it’s quite the compliment to be included within that roster, which Extraction 2 (2023) has rightfully earned.
Set directly after the event of Extraction (2020), Black Ops specialist Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) has miraculously survived his seemingly fatal injuries and is recovering in a remote cabin. One would think that Rake would relish the chance to live quietly and peacefully, but this is not the case. Either due to boredom or self-loathing, Rake would rather be doing anything else. That chance comes when a mysterious stranger named Alcott (Idris Elba) comes to him with a new job. A woman named Ketevan (Tinatin Dalakishvili) and her children are being held captive in a Georgian prison by her criminal husband. As it happens, Ketevan is the sister of Mia (Olga Kurylenko), Rake’s ex-wife, meaning this mission has a little more at stake for him than the usual fare.
While certainly a big hit on Netflix, the original Extraction left something to be desired, especially when compared to its contemporaries such as John Wick (2014 – 2023), The Raid (2011 -2014), or Mission Impossible (1996 – 2023). To be honest, it even felt a bit lacking when lined up against less refined action series’, like The Fast and The Furious (2001 – 2023) or James Bond (1962 – 2021). This was mainly due to the fact that Extraction had very little personality underneath the handsome visuals and well-crafted action. If the sequel was to show any improvement, it would be to exhibit some kind of voice of its own, and thankfully, Extraction 2 has managed to do so.
While action films are all about delivering thrills, chills and excitement, that can only happen if it also delivers characters that the audience care about. If they don’t care, there’s no tension when car chases, explosions and close calls light up the screen, regardless of how well produced it all is. Where the original Extraction failed to create likeable or memorable heroes, Extraction 2 breathes some life into these previously dull players. In the original film, Tyler Rake was simply a stock, stoic, edgy, stereotype without any justification given for being one. While he still remains a tough as nails hard man, the personal stakes to this mission allows for his backstory and character to be fleshed out, adding some much needed reasoning and depth as to why he is the way he is. Granted, it’s not the most original backstory, but it’s better than not having one at all.
With that in mind, the personal stakes extend from Tyler Rake himself, to the entire roster of characters. As the story unfolds, we see that everyone, hero or villain, appears to be on parallel arcs dealing with the same central theme. Once again, there’s nothing particularly mould breaking here, as it’s a fairly safe story structure having every character linked by a single controlling idea. Nevertheless, this allows for all the pieces to feel relevant, as well as making the film feel like it has a reason for existing. In a way, Extraction 2 presents the alignment of story and theme very cleanly, so you could almost imagine using it as an example of the form when explaining structure to a first timer. Obviously there are far better films you’d want to use when teaching screenwriting, but Extraction 2 unpacks the basic action movie theme of “family”, in a slightly more deliberate manner than others more known (or mocked) for doing so.
All that being said, we can’t talk about Extraction 2 without eventually addressing the all important action sequences. The original film’s most famous set piece is its 12 minute long one take, which travels through car chases, foot chases, fist fights and gun fights seemingly without cutting. Obviously it was a simulated effect, but it was a show-stopping moment which elevated the film above its dullness. Extraction 2 ups the ante significantly, pulling off an even more spectacular one take action sequence which plays out for over 20 minutes. While that sounds tiring, the momentum is never lost because this one take even slows down to allow for story developments, tension changes and act breaks. It’s a truly impressive feat of filmmaking, so much so that you completely forgive the fact that Tyler Rake uses a ladder as cover against helicopter machine gun fire. Outside of this one extended sequence, Extraction 2 still manages to find creative and varied set pieces further down the line, which is another area where it outperforms the original film.
Even with all the notable improvements, there’s definitely still areas where Extraction 2 shows slight signs of weakness. Namely, the tone is in an awkward balance between dead serious and over-the-top silly. What’s happening on screen is beyond ridiculous, yet there’s a sense of grim darkness over it all which may not entirely fit. However, this is minor given the fact there are plenty of moments which shows that director Sam Hargrave is aware he is making a theme park ride of a film, so this may be an element which will continue to be smoothed out by the time we get to the inevitable third film. This is aided by the fact that Chris Hemsworth is clearly having a great time in the role, as he is showing total commitment to every aspect.
Ultimately, Extraction 2 is something of a comforting prospect, as it’s rare to see Hollywood actively and knowingly display that they have heard our complaints. The film itself is still only a minor addition to the action genre, as it doesn’t hold a candle to many of the classics it borrows from, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun, exciting and enjoyable experience. With the previously mentioned third film already confirmed, maybe we will someday be talking about Tyler Rake in the same conversation as John Wick. Unlikely, but anything is possible.
Best way to watch it: While doing bicep curls.