This weekend I watched the new Netflix-produced film Extraction, starring Chris Hemsworth. It has gotten a lot of good press, and I’m always up for a great action movie. In some ways, it was a classic macho hero action flick, and it did all the right things very well. Probably one of the best action movies I’ve seen in years. But in other ways, it was really different than a typical action film in some pretty important ways, and discussing it over a 5 mile run with Swirly and EF Hutton this morning, it occured to me that it is a film that embodies many of the best principles of F3. Hutton encouraged me to write about it, so here we go. Also, warning, major spoilers here. Probably don’t read this until you’ve watched it.
Chris Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake, a retired special forces soldier who now serves as a mercenary for hire. We can tell he has some kind of serious death wish, as evidenced by his impetuous jump off a 30 meter cliff in the beginning of the film. We learn that he is prone to take missions that will most certainly end up with him dead, yet he somehow keeps living. We also learn he is an alcoholic and addicted to oxycontin. Clearly there is some dark stuff in this guy’s past.
He and his team get hired to extract a middle school boy who is the son of a very powerful druglord in India, and who has been kidnapped by a rival druglord in Bangladesh. The beginning of the mission goes swimmingly, with Tyler killing like 50 druglord guys with his pinky and a handgun, resulting in him securing the boy, whose name is Ovi. But then things go south real quick, as he and his team get ambushed. It turns out that the entire police force and military forces of Bangladesh and every kid with a pocketknife are all in the pocket of the druglord, and they’re all after Tyler and Ovi. The rest of the film is basically Tyler evading getting killed and killing everyone that is trying to kill him, all the while trying to keep the boy safe and get the hell out. This involves some crazy shooting and fighting scenes that ensure you should not watch this film with your small children.
If that was the whole film it would be really entertaining. But what makes it a really great movie is what is behind all the action. In the midst of this crazy mission, Tyler discovers he has a purpose. We learn from a tender conversation he has with Ovi that Tyler was married and had a son, but his son had cancer and died at the age of 6. Tyler confesses that he could not face the suffering of his own child, so he signed up for a third tour to Afghanistan. His son died without him present and his marriage fell apart. Tyler now lives for nothing but himself, addicted to substances and violence, drowning his pain, his life an emblem of his selfish abandonment of his family. Throughout the film, he sees fuzzy images of his son in his imagination, but he can never see his face.
But in the midst of the firefights, Tyler comes to care for Ovi. Ovi is a sweet kid with a bad father himself, and in a weird way Tyler becomes his father and Ovi becomes Tyler’s son. Tyler begins to realize he has a reason for living other than his own selfish appetites. He is confronted with several opportunities to bail and even capitalize financially on Ovi’s surrender, but he commits himself with the most impossible passion to keeping Ovi alive and getting him safe. And at the end of the film, when he has one final opportunity to escape, Tyler instead turns straight into the fire and takes a literal bullet in the head for Ovi. As he wavers on the edge of life, about to collapse in death, he gestures to Ovi to run to safety. In one final vision Tyler sees his son again, but this time he sees his face. He is a father again. Through his act of love and surrender, his purpose is restored, his life is whole. He dies, but his death is not a dark fulfillment of his selfish choices, it is redemption.*
What does this have to do with F3? I love F3 not just because of the exercise but because of the purpose that our shared exertion embodies. Sure, we work out and make our bodies strong, and sure, we all secretly want to look like Chris Hemsworth and Swirly and be badasses. But the point is not being a badass. The point is love. The point is to claim our purpose, which is to no longer live for ourselves, but to live to give ourselves away. The selfish darkness inside of us all will always threaten to kill us and harm others around us, but true life comes when we surrender our self-centeredness and live for love. Specifically, to live for substitutionary love, love that sacrifices self that others would gain life. In the end we are not saved by violence but by surrender. As Someone really important said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life will find it.”
The end of the film is purposely ambiguous, the director admitted, as you get a glimpse of a shadowy figure of Tyler watching over Ovi. The credits roll, and you’re asking, Did he somehow survive? Was that in Ovi’s imagination? Is this just a set up for a money-making sequel?? But it’s left in the mind of the viewer to decide. I like to believe that Tyler is really dead and this was a vision of him in Ovi’s imagination, his father-figure who has now imprinted him forever and given him his own purpose to live for.**
In this time of so much fear and division and uncertainty, let’s live to give ourselves away to others. (And being badasses is ok too.)
*The ending, at least to me, plays off the title of the movie. Ovi is successfully extracted from his kidnappers, while Tyler is extracted from his internal imprisonment and finally achieves freedom.
** I admit that as a pastor, the end made me think of Jesus, who after substituting himself for us actually did rise from the dead, and then promised to be with us always, to the very end of the age.