- Netflix's new action film "Extraction" stars Chris Hemsworth as mercenary Tyler Rake.
- The film's standout action sequence is shot to look like one long continuous take, which is stitched together with invisible cuts.
- To capture the non-stop flow of the action, director Sam Hargrave did everything from strapped himself to the hood of a car, jumped off a balcony, and chased after Hemsworth on foot through narrow hallways.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: That's not just any stunt cameraman. That's Sam Hargrave, the director of
's action movie "Extraction."
To create this one shot required a complicated maneuver. First he unstrapped himself from the hood of a car, then he ran over to another car to film inside, and then he had to repeat the same shot from two different positions precisely to allow for a seamless final edit.
The result was this: a shot that goes smoothly from outside a fast-moving vehicle to inside the car without any visible interruption. And that's just three seconds of a 12-minute-long sequence filmed to look like a single shot, which required camera moves by foot and by harness, complex stunts, invisible cuts, and a cast that could endure extended fight scenes.
The director wanted the audience to see the complicated act of mercenary Tyler Rake extracting the kidnapped Ovi happen in real time and felt that one long take was the way to do it. The entire sequence consists of a car chase, then a chase up some stairs, a fight in a building, a jump from one rooftop to another, a tumble off an awning, a fight in the street, and one final car chase, which amounts to about 36 different segments attached together, creating an impressive 12-minute, seemingly continuous scene.
From planning to shooting, it took approximately four to five months to bring this one sequence to life. First they looked at large maps of the location in India and highlighted routes where they would be shooting the scene. Then they choreographed the chase shots using toy cars, labeling each one carefully.
Sam Hargrave: One of the logistics, 'cause it's not just me and a camera and, you know, Chris Hemsworth in a car. There's hundreds of people involved in making this happen, so where do you stage them? It was a really intense, technical puzzle to solve.
Narrator: Hargrave is no stranger to big, one-take action scenes. On top of being a stuntman and coordinator for multiple Marvel movies, he famously choreographed the memorable 10-minute, one-take fight scene in "Atomic Blonde."
While most movies might require one or two location scouts, this movie required seven to eight. During scouting, the crew needed to find the most narrow and claustrophobic streets possible as well as buildings that provided passageways for easy, continuous shooting.
Sometimes they would alter the location to fit the sequence, and other times the location would alter what the script looked like. For example, while this one building offered the perfect balcony for Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda to start fighting, it did not have an awning that allowed their characters to tumble off the building, so the crew constructed one.
Before actually shooting the scene, all of the stunts were rehearsed and filmed on location.
Hargrave: We were testing and proving everything so that when we got there, there were no unanswered questions. We knew exactly where stitches were gonna happen, how were we going to, you know, throw this person over a balcony and capture that.
Narrator: The sequence beings with a car chase. This is when Hargrave strapped himself to the hood of a vehicle. The small vehicle allowed him to squeeze through some tight spaces, like this tunnel. Most movies film car chases using a pursuit arm, which is a camera mounted to a vehicle meant to follow action. You can see one used during the chase scenes though the streets of Busan in "Black Panther."
So, why do this instead? Stylistically, it allowed them to switch more seamlessly to a handheld style when they needed to. Practically, it allowed for mobility for shots where the camera switches perspective from outside Tyler Rake's car to inside.
Hargrave's vehicle had to pull up directly alongside Rake's car, then Hargrave unclipped himself and put the camera as far inside the car as possible. Then, once he could get inside the car, he leaned out the window and then pulled the camera back in to reshoot the same action and the same background. This allowed the two shots to be stitched together. Hargrave said that he had to replicate it precisely, and if he was off by even a few degrees, they would have to shoot it all over again.
Eventually, they have to get the two main characters out of the car and onto the street. In order to get the camera to leave the car without a cut, the window needed to shatter during this crash.
The camera was hard-mounted inside the car and then put onto a slide, where it could then be pushed through the now empty window space so Hargrave could grab it and continue the shot up a flight of stairs as he chased a group of cops and then eventually met back up with the two main characters.
That's where things got complicated. Because the hallways were only about three and a half feet wide, he had to avoid stepping over fallen bodies or running directly into the fight. And when you see the camera back up and eventually follow Ovi away, Hargrave had to count the exact number of steps he was walking backwards so he wouldn't crash into a wall.
Hargrave: To get that right, I think we had to do, I think it was 21 takes.
Narrator: And because the crew was so mobile, they had to rely on natural light as much as possible to light scenes. Lighting kits were only used when necessary, like inside cars and inside the truck.
While this was all one long, continuous take, they still needed to call "Cut!" at some point. So the sequence is full of invisible stitches, like when the window was shattered.
Hargrave: Sometimes, the places, the locations, weren't right next to each other and they weren't sequentially, you weren't able to shoot and move through them sequentially.
Narrator: When Ovi ducks into a room and starts throwing objects, that doorframe was used as a stitch point. In reality, they recreated the room in another building down the street.
Hargrave: It was, like, you know, 10 blocks away because the room had more access, had more space to shoot.
Narrator: If not done correctly, this can create a continuity nightmare. So to successfully cobble these shots together, they had to recreate the first doorframe in the second location, so they looked exactly the same in both places.
Hargrave: That actual location where he comes out is another place where we had to stitch, and that was just a couple doors down from that location 'cause what we're trying to, you know, get the person to believe is he goes in that door, goes down the room, and comes out, you know, not far away where Chris still was.
Narrator: Stitches were also necessary for some of the more dangerous stunts. When Tyler jumps from one roof to another, they had to switch from Hemsworth to his stunt double. So they put in a stitch right here, as the shot switches to the back of the character's head, allowing Hemsworth to swap out with his double.
Stunt doubles came in again when Hemsworth and Hooda's characters tumble off a balcony and into the street.
Director: Three, two, one, go!
Narrator: Here's Hemsworth watching as his double, Bobby Holland Hanton, took the fall. This was one of the hardest shots to capture and was as much a stunt for Hargrave as it was for the actors. Hargrave said that, normally, a shot like this might have anywhere from four to five cameras.
Hargrave: Whatever they'd give me, as many as they could, so that you could, if something goes wrong or if the pacing's off, you could cut around it.
Narrator: With just one camera...
Hargrave: Because I wanted to be close to them to feel the impact of the fall but also wide enough to see the fall.
Narrator: So to get the shot, Hargrave jumped off the balcony and over the awning with them, roped into a pulley system. It allowed him to hop right behind them as they fell and then got on the ground right on time. After five tries, they got it right.
Then the two actors continued to duke it out in the middle of the street. Because there are no visible cuts and the camera had to keep rolling and rolling, the fight scenes were especially challenging for the actors. Because they couldn't cut to different angles, there was no way for them to fake it. The actors would also have to be ready to move as a small vehicle goes right between them during the fight, a detail they incorporated after location scouting.
In the final stretch of the sequence, Tyler and Ovi steal a truck for one last big chase. They actually did use a special vehicle with a pursuit arm for this part. This was the only way they could physically keep up with the one-unbroken-take illusion.
Hargrave: We had a camera vehicle so that we could race up beside the truck and get into the car deeper than I could. When I was safety-ed in, my arms only go so far. But we could get this action vehicle in a little deeper to the car.
Narrator: CGI came in handy for the moment where Tyler and Ovi jump out of the truck. According to Hargrave, the jump was originally just hinted at. However, in the editing room, they decided they wanted to actually show it, but this location was no longer available. So first they had to rebuild the street and tunnel on an airport tarmac in Thailand. There, they had the stunt doubles leap out. After that, they worked backwards by having the two actual actors recreate the moment before the characters jumped out of the truck in front of a green screen. So this shot of them about to leap out of the truck and them actually falling out is two different shots in two completely different locations connected seamlessly.
When the truck flips over, the continuous take ends.
While it was important to keep the momentum going and always have something exciting happening on screen, Hargrave also found the best way to keep the audience engaged throughout was by pulling back. In the moments before Tyler and Ovi jump off the roof, there was supposed to be a huge fight on the roof, but Hargrave decided to scrap it.
Hargrave: There's been so much action before, and there's about to be so much more. And we can't make this decision in the editing room. We can't just, you know, cut around and say, "Well, let's speed this up." We said, "I think right now we're overloading the audience with action. We need to take a break, we need to, like, insert a little joke here."
Narrator: So they settled with this unscripted moment of comic relief.
Tyler: All right, kid, you trust me?