‘Extraction’ Test Screenings Divided Viewers and Changed Director’s Preferred Ending

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[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers about the ending of “Extraction.”]

Sam Hargrave’s action movie “Extraction” debuted on Netflix this weekend and quickly rose to the first position on the streamer’s top 10 list. The film’s somewhat ambiguous ending has thrown some viewers for a loop as to whether or not Chris Hemsworth’s protagonist, Tyler Rake, survived the events of the movie. Tyler seemingly dies after succeeding in his mission to extract Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal), but the last shot of the movie sees Ovi emerging from a pool and realizing he’s been watched by a mysterious figure. Is this Tyler? A hallucination? The ending creates some questions that Hargrave doesn’t answer. The director told Collider the original “Extraction” script was more definitive about Tyler’s fate.

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“In the original script — and this was my idea — Rake does not live,” Hargrave said. “His story was complete because he found something to keep him alive, and his journey was complete when he came to redemption through sacrifice. He made the choice he was okay with. He had come to terms with his past and the choice he made in the present saved this kid, and if that meant him dying, so be it. And that was his journey in my mind.”

Hargrave shot different versions of the “Extraction” ending and let test screenings decide whether or not Tyler would survive the film. “It was not surprising that a lot of people wanted the character to live, and some people wanted him to die,” the director said. “People were torn; it was almost down the middle. We want to appeal to as many people as possible without compromising the integrity of the story.”

In order to satisfy the viewers who wanted Tyler to die and the viewers who wanted Tyler to live, Hargrave went with an ambiguous ending that allowed the viewer to decide what happened to Hemsworth’s character. The director called it “a pretty good compromise,” explaining, “If people on one hand feel like the story is complete and is a story of redemption through sacrifice, then for them it’ll be where the kid is imagining [Rake standing there], and then now you go, ‘Yes, I’m satisfied.’ If you feel like you love Tyler Rake and you want a sequel, and you’re like ‘There’s no way, you can’t kill him!’ then that’s Tyler Rake standing there looking at you. So we kind of purposefully did not pull focus to the character standing there.”

Hargrave continued, “A lot of us who are in the original camp didn’t want him to survive, a lot in the new camp wanted him to live. We tested it, and it was literally down the middle for people who wanted him to live versus die. So we’re like, hey, we’ll give you the best of both worlds, we’re gonna have this ambiguous ending where you can choose your own adventure.”

“Extraction” is now streaming on Netflix. Head to Collider to read more from Hargrave about the film’s ending, and read IndieWire’s full interview with Hargrave here about crafting the film’s 12-minute one-shot action sequence.

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