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The ending of Chris Hemsworth's Extraction explained

Contains spoilers for Extraction

Netflix's latest original feature — starring Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, alongside Bollywood sensation Randeep Hooda — is about as high-octane a thriller as any action fan could hope for. Through all the captivating action sequences and frenetic fight scenes, Extraction actually manages to tell a pretty complex story with an ambiguous ending that has fans abuzz with conjecture and speculative theories.

Extraction follows protagonist Tyler Rake (Hemsworth), a former member of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment now working as an off-the-books mercenary. At the film's outset, he's engaged by fellow killer-for-hire Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani) to rescue the son of India's leading drug kingpin, who is currently being held for an exorbitant ransom by rival drug lord Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli).

A hiccup during Rake's attempted "extraction" of his target brings down the wrath of Saju (Hooda), another former special operative currently in the employ of the Bangladeshi drug lord. Rake and Saju engage in a complex game of cat-and-mouse that ultimately results in the two former military men working together to outwit the authorities on their tails.

As far as action-thriller set-ups go, it's about as compelling as they come, but viewers hoping for a pat resolution that sees charismatic anti-hero Rake victoriously walking away from an explosion in slow motion were left with a real head scratcher. Toward the end of its last act, Extraction takes an unexpected dark turn and drops a final scene that eludes easy explanation. Let's break it down with a little help from the film's director, Sam Hargrave.

Tyler Rake definitely had a death wish, but was it actually granted?

Rake actually experiences quite a bit of character development over the course of Extraction. At the beginning of the film, the shark-eyed mercenary has an obvious death wish. His ambivalence toward his own continued survival is a big part of what makes him such a deadly merc. We learn that much of Rake's nihilism stems from the death of his son, a loss that still haunts him.

It's his relationship with Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal), his target for extraction, that ultimately saves Rake from himself. As Rake begins to form a bond with Ovi, he no longer sees the drug heir as a simple job, but rather a kid whose life has become more important than his own. It's important for Rake's character that his relationship with Ovi brings him back from the brink; when it comes time for Rake to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his charge, it has to actually feel like a sacrifice.

By the time the film reaches its climactic shootout on the bridge, Rake takes a mortal wound to ensure Ovi's safe escape. This emotional beat lands because we actually believe that Rake no longer wants to die, but has chosen to give his life up to save Ovi's. So Rake gets to go to his grave feeling like he redeemed his soul, while Ovi lives to fight another day. Satisfying ending, right?

Not so fast.

After Ovi's daring escape, the film presents a very unexpected coda. In the final moments of Extraction, Ovi dives into a peaceful swimming pool — a mirror image of Rake's first scene diving off a cliff. When he comes up for air, he sees a shadowy figure standing in the background who bears a striking resemblance to Rake, but the film ends before we get any actual confirmation. So, what gives?

Did Rake survive the firefight on the bridge or not? Has he come back to check in on Ovi? Does he want to train him as a mercenary? Go for a swim? Play a game of catch? Or is this shadowy figure someone else entirely?

You can read the ending of Extraction however you prefer

As it turns out, Extraction's final moments were left open to interpretation by design. Hargrave weighed in on the mystery surrounding this final scene (via Collider), saying, "We had a version of the movie, and we tested it a lot, and it was not surprising that a lot of people wanted the character to live, and some people wanted him to die... 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 love Chris Hemsworth, 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."

For fans looking for a little more closure, Hargrave shared that the original screenplay for Extraction included a much more definitive ending. In screenwriter Joe Russo's intended story, Tyler Rake very explicitly dies on the bridge, completing the character arc he started when he dove off that cliff in the initial scene. Hargrave told Collider that the test audiences weren't crazy about the sacrifice, however.

"People were torn; it was almost down the middle," Hargrave said. "We want to appeal to as many people as possible without compromising the integrity of the story. And so, we think a pretty good compromise is to make an ambiguous ending."

Hargrave ultimately admitted that he prefers to imagine that Rake is dead by the film's conclusion. "His story was complete because he found something to keep him alive," Hargrave said. "And his journey was complete when he came to redemption through sacrifice. He made the choice he was okay with." For fans in desperate need of finality, that's probably the best you're going to get. The rest of us will have to learn to live with the ambiguity — at least until we get an Extraction 2.

As Hargrave put it: "You get to say which one you feel is right for you."

Fair enough.