After having swept productions like ‘El hoyo’ or ‘Code 8’, Netflix has already found its new film phenomenon with ‘Tyler Rake’: an action feature film starring Chris Hemsworth, which joins titles such as ‘John Wick’ or ‘Atomic’ by having a coordinator of risk specialists converted into a director as head.
The movie of Sam Hargrave, budgeted at $ 65 million, in addition to its savage and more than decent shootouts and combat sequences, it is captivating subscribers to the streaming platform thanks to a false sequence shot of about twelve minutes long brimming with chaos, death and destruction that, on a personal basis, has left me quite cold for reasons that I will comment later.
But the latter does not mean, under any circumstances, that the work of the North American director is negligible, suggesting a titanic effort, both creatively and logistically, which spanned five months of preparation and ten days of filming. We will discover how this ambitious was created set piece from the hand of Hargrave himself, who shared the process with the IndieWire medium in an interview.
From paper to (false) sequence shot
The idea of shaping a false sequence shot which is undoubtedly the great set piece from ‘Tyler Rake’ —’Extraction ‘in its original language—, arose from the need to distance itself from other big action franchises, also looking for an approximation of the viewer more visceral and “realistic” to the experience of the film’s protagonists during the fierce persecution.
“The action sequence was amazing and exciting on paper, but on a budget and time-consuming level, it was one of the things that I didn’t know if we would have the time to execute as big as it was in the script. I keep it in our world How do I make it mine so it’s not just another version of a chase in a Bourne or Bond movie With our time and budget we weren’t going to beat Bourne so how do we do it ?
So I looked and thought, well, it would be fun to stay close, to hold a meaning, and to keep the actors involved doing this kind of long shot. What you are promising with a title like ‘Extraction’ is, we are going to let the public experience this with the characters in real time so that you face the challenges they face just as they do. You are reacting to what they react … and that is why I chose to do it with a handheld camera and with an almost documentary style, so that you would be there, feeling this sequence in real time. “
Of course, get ahead a festival of four-wheel chases, shootouts, explosions, hand-to-hand combat and colliding vehicles everywhere is not at all simple. If we add to this the fact that in all filming, time is translated into money —and the assistant directors are there to remind the cinematographer every five seconds—, an intense planning process it seemed essential.
“From conception to execution it took us probably four or five months. I had to write the scene so it would flow the right way and for people to know it was a sequence shot where it was going, from here to there, because you had Narrative points along the way. It couldn’t be an action scene just for the action, it had to touch on the narrative key points and reveal things about the characters and show the development of the relationship between Tyler and Ovi. There are many things you have to tell “.
This arduous preparation meant, among other things, turning over the tasks of scouting. Everything we see during the false sequence shot is shot in real locations, and finding the appropriate sets finished altering the sequence approach on the fly and their different situations as they appeared in the script.
“I started thinking about gags and things I wanted to see. I talked to the location department and the production designer and I said, ‘Hey, I want to find this type of building with this type of access, because I want to do this stunt, or I want streets. narrow to make us claustrophobic, and all the things I wanted to see. ‘When they found a few options, I would go with them and choose the best space. The action and the stories began to change with the environment and with those incredible places that we found in Ahmedabad, India, which is where we shot this sequence for ten days. When you find all those amazing things, your mind goes even further. You think, oh that’s great. What if we do this here? It’s even better than what I thought they could do it on a ladder instead of flat ground. “
As is evident, the key when putting this type of sequence into practice lies in rehearse a thousand times before yelling “action”. When Hargrave and his team were clear about the places where the set piece, planning and actions of the characters involved, the rehearsals began.
“The next step was to bring the stunt team there, with me, and all the action they had been rehearsing in the stunt hotel and gym was adapted to the actual space. Now, something that was cool in a big, open room. and flat, it had to change, because you are on a balcony or on a staircase, in a car or wherever “.
In order to ensure the highest possible precision during the shooting days – and this is something commonly used by filmmakers like Gareth Evans in his two installments of ‘The Raid: Murderous Raid’ -, these essays were recorded to have a kind of storyboard audiovisual which, in addition, served to ensure that the transitions that joined the different fragments of the false sequence shot worked perfectly
“We shot the sequence before we shot the sequence. I took a video camera and the stunt team, and we went to shoot it all and put it together to make sure those bonding moments worked. Logistically, we couldn’t do all twelve minutes at once, because one location was in this part of the city, and the others, in this other part “.
Once planned and rehearsed ad nauseam, it was time to get down to work on ten days of filming in which the same scenes were filmed over and over again until they were perfectly executed. Of course, constant repetition was necessary to find that point of realism that Hargrave longed for, and it resulted in a visible on-screen weariness for the actors.
“In a day, it would be between three and six different long sequences, it could be the four or five minutes we needed, thirty seconds, or whatever those pieces were that fit together. You had to do it until you got it right. You could do it. everything and take three minutes and 59 seconds, but if you know you’ve tripped or someone in the background is looking at the camera, you have to do it all over again, because there is no safety net. I think our maximum was 21 times.
Since we weren’t cutting at different angles, you couldn’t say, ‘Rest Chris, let’s foreshorten.’ It had to be the actors doing everything, and that exhausted look and deep breaths are real. It’s hard to fake those things. They are all great actors, but there is a certain attribute, a certain sense of tangible viscerality in the performance that you can only get by being in the real location and pushing the actors as hard as we did. “
My problems with the ‘Tyler Rake’ sequence shot
Leaving aside my general opinion about the feature film – which is not that I am too enthusiastic, let us say – and focusing on the false sequence shot at hand, I must confess that my predominant feeling about the set piece that has turned social networks upside down in recent days has been the coldest coldness.
As I mentioned earlier, I can only take my hat off to the deed signed by Sam Hargrave and his team. However, more than immersing myself in the action and intensifying the sensations of the protagonists, the camera work and the staging ended up taking me completely out of the film for various reasons.
On one side, the style of realization of this false sequence shot completely breaks with what was seen both in the previous action sequences of the film – such as the great fight between Tyler and the hitmen in the safe house – and in the subsequent ones. Suddenly, the camera moves to a kind of subjective point of view too obvious, which suggests the presence of a third character —the spectator— who does not reappear at any other moment in the footage, more conventional and contained in his style and planning.
On the other hand, perhaps what has fostered my distancing the most has been the ease with which the seams of the artifice can be seen. The vast majority of cuts are not concealed enough to create the illusion of only one shot, and incessantly use trite resources such as transitions through whip pans, that take advantage of sudden camera movements to hide the cuts.
If to this we add a somewhat arrhythmic narrative structure, which alternates remarkably inspired passages, in which the action takes place incessantly —almost all located in the fragment developed on foot—, with others in which we only have Tyler and Ovi aboard a vehicle while the camera is not. stops moving as if it were on a roller coaster generating a false sense of dynamism, the disappointment ends up being supine.
All of this is even more surprising if we consider that Hargrave himself was second unit director and coordinator of stunts in the vindicable ‘Atomic’. This film had a remarkable false sequence shot of about ten minutes in which Charlize Theron fought inside a building against several enemies, and that was much more organic, intense and cohesive with the rest of the footage of the film in form and substance.
Ultimately, the fake sequence shot of ‘Tyler Rake’ has reminded me of the wise words of a teacher who used to insistently remind us that gimmicky and effective are two terms not at all related to each other.