Extraction 2 director Sam Hargrave thought long and hard about how to top the 12-minute nonstop action sequence in the first Extraction, and thought of one way to do it when he saw a weather forecast calling for snow: “What if we light Chris Hemsworth on fire?”
Hemsworth stars in the Extraction films as mercenary Tyler Rake, who extracts innocent people being held against their will, and tends to do it via extremely long, jaw-dropping action sequences. In the first Extraction, he did it in a long shootout that appeared to be a single-twelve-minute shot. In Extraction 2, he doubles it, and then some.
How Long Is the Prison Break Scene in Extraction 2?
“It’s twenty-four minutes and seven seconds. But who’s counting, right?” says Hargrave.
The scene, in which Rake breaks his sister-in-law and her children out of prison, includes shootouts, lots of martial arts, a real train, a real helicopter landing on that real train, and, for an uncomfortably long time, Chris Hemsworth covered in real flames. It all appears to happen in one shot, though Hargrave says there are some invisible edits here and there.
For the flame, you can thank Akira Kurosawa, the genius behind Seven Samurai, Rashoman, The Hidden Fortress and other classics of Japanese cinema.
“I like elements in films, kind of a nod to Kurosawa, and how he would mess with rain or fire or water in the form of rain — and wind,” says Hargrave, whose full interview on the latest MovieMaker podcast is available on Apple, Spotify or here:
The prison break was shot on location, during a period of intense cold.
“Knowing in the forecast that snow was coming up, I thought, what would be an interesting contrast, visually? It was like, fire’s really cool. But what’s more interesting than just having fires? Moving fires! It should be on a person. What if we light Chris Hemsworth on fire? And he’s punching his way through a bunch of prisoners on fire? I think that would be get people’s attention, if nothing else.”
This is where he warned us and you to not try this at home. OK? No matter what. But also told us how he did it.
No, But Seriously, Don’t Try This at Home, Says Sam Hargrave
“Fire burns are all about preparation. It’s all about prep. There’s special layers of clothing, special fireproof gels that we use, and you have to take everything into account, even the wind, the weather. The fire burns differently in different temperatures. And if the wind’s blowing, obviously you don’t want it blowing back towards you,” explains Hargrave.
“And so with with Chris — and we lit his arm on fire, we didn’t put him in a full burn, because we couldn’t cover up that beautiful face — we lit his arm on fire and had him, you know, strategically move, fighting forward so that the wind is in his face and blowing the fire back away from him.
“Because if you have a gust of wind that comes up and it wraps around the body, it could come up and burn his face. So there is inherent danger in working with fire and you don’t want to mess with it unless you’re surrounded by and supervised by stunt professionals.
“It goes from hot to your third-degree burns in a blink of an eye, and you don’t want to mess up that stuff. So it’s all in the prep. You’ve got the proper clothing, proper gear, proper safety measures and people you know.”
He noted that everyone set on fire for Extraction 2 had two people watching them closely just off-camera.
“It was Chris plus four other stunt performers. Each person had two safety people who their sole job was just watching them. For Chris, I think we had three.”
Our full interview with Hargrave — in our podcast — covers how Louis L’Amour novels led him to directing, how he balanced stunt performing with film school, and his ultimate Hollywood aspirations. We also discuss the writers strike and why writers are so essential to film sets.
Main image: Sam Hargrave, director of Extraction 2.