Dhaka Courier

If only they knew

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Did the Netflix feature set in Bangladesh defame our nation? Or are we missing its cinematic excellence, blinded by emotions?

When the announcement first came, youth of the country thought it too good to be true. Then came the occasional updates on how production was progressing on the first ‘Hollywood’ (actually Netflix) film with a storyline set in Bangladesh. When the details were leaked they had their hopes high and the trailer stormed the netizens. Since first getting wind of it, the media kept an eye on it right through to the release. Somewhere in this process, we lost the ability to ever view it for what it was: a commercial movie with a script that just happened to be set in Dhaka. Nothing in the plot hinges on it. Almost any other South Asian country neighbouring India would have sufficed for the same film.

So upon the release of Extraction, one of the most anticipated foreign movies in Bangladesh for years, the internet in Bangladesh exploded in debate as always, but not just tinged with dissatisfaction. In the extremities, there was baying for blood. Evidently it all flowed from the light (and quite literally) it shone on our nation, our Army, the youth, even our drug barons, and surely taking the cake, Bangla, our beloved tongue (the film is mostly English). What we were looking for and what the filmmakers were looking to achieve, what any commercial filmmaker looking to serve the global audience offered by a streaming service would look to achieve, were on completely different planes.

Produced by prolific co-creator of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Joe Russo, the script (that Russo also wrote) of Extraction has everything it needs to grab the attention of action-lovers: druglords, mercenaries, car chases, intense firefights, explosions...you name it. The sad part is the poor execution of the elements meshing all of them together hoping to distract the viewers. First-time director Sam Hargrave might not have cracked the code for a proper thriller despite the action part.

The story revolves around an emotionally stressed mercenary, Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsowrth) who is on a mission to ‘extract’ Ovi Mahajan Jr (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of jailed Indian druglord Ovi Mahajan Sr (Pankaj Tripathi) who has been kidnapped by the rival drug kingpin in Bangladesh and held in its heart, Dhaka.

The portrayal of Dhaka is hit or miss (mostly). Considering the shooting actually took place in the Indian city of Hyderabad, the commitment of the director should be appreciated if not celebrated. The depiction of Bangladesh Army personnel getting slaughtered left and right is not pleasing for the youth but then again Hollywood has been replicating the formula in movies set in lesser-known countries for years.

The set pieces were gripping and so was the action choreograph. Same cannot be said about the character development though. Many of the one-dimensional characters from the camps of protagonist and antagonist could not be told apart from the henchmen that got slain. Apart from the charismatic performances of Hemworth and Randeep Hooda, all the other actors were less than stellar.

The wild shootouts in the middle and in the end alongside the near impossible long take was favoured by the fans of Marvel-esque cinematography. Netflix really hit it out of the park in terms of audience pulling. According to Netflix, the film was streamed by 90 million accounts within four weeks of release, making it the most watched Netflix original film ever in that timespan. The clever placing by the streaming giant was aided by the Hollywood flavoured over the top action and zero competition from mainstream theatres due to COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of the day, Extraction is a run-of-the-mill action film with nothing to offer that could be termed ‘memorable’. Yet it is destined to occupy a  will be a special piece of controversy for the viewers of Bangladesh because of many aspects; like how a movie set in Bangladesh had zero cast members from there or how inaccurate the portrayal of Bangladesh was in general. But to be sure, that would be true of almost any country east of the British Isles ever portrayed in American cinema, and everything south of Texas too. Putting that aside, Extraction proved to be a safe but underwhelming bet that paid off gloriously. A sequel is supposedly on the cards already.

Extraction is currently streaming on Netflix.

  • Extraction
  • If only they knew
  • Vol 36
  • Saykot Kabir Shayok
  • Issue 44
  • DhakaCourier

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