My rear speakers never saw it coming – and neither did Chris Hemsworth. A hail of bullets, from a helicopter as nimble as a bee, is unloaded into his cab on a runaway train. This isn’t just a couple of rounds; it’s a storm of ordnance.
Bullets ricochet hither and thither. The soundfield in my home theatre sounds like it’s being blown apart. It’s terrifically exciting – and it’s just one of dozens of standout audio sequences in Extraction 2, currently streaming on Netflix in Dolby Atmos.
A sequel to Extraction, the movie isn’t (as you might imagine) about the trials and tribulations of dentistry. Rather it follows the escapades of ex-Special Forces, now mercenary, Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) and his merc chums. Tyler is the kind of guy you call on when you need to get people out of precarious situations.
In the first movie, which I highly recommend, Rake is hired to extract the kidnapped son of a brutal drug baron from the clutches of a Bangladeshi crime boss. Naturally, the operation goes sideways, resulting in an avalanche of quite beautifully choreographed action.
The film was a huge success for the streamer, hitting 90 million views in just four weeks, making it one of the most successful Netflix Original movies ever. A bona fide hit, the sequel was swiftly green-lit. Key members of the original movie return for more mayhem, including Golshifteh Farahani as Tyler’s long time merc-buddy Nik, and Adam Bessa as brother Yaz.
Caution: if you haven't watched Extraction or Extraction 2, minor spoilers follow. Go watch them and then report back.
Extraction 2 picks up pretty much exactly where the original left off, our hero is in none-too-good shape following his last adventure, but his recuperative powers appear akin to those of a Norse god. Hemsworth retreats to a cabin in the woods to convalesce. In terms of sound design, we get some nice natural ambiance but nothing to write home about. Then Idris Elba turns up and urges him to come out of retirement. Time to edge up the volume.
It seems the sister of his ex-wife, who is married to a brutal Georgian crime boss, and her two kids, have been imprisoned in Georgia. They need someone with Tyler’s skills to get them out. What follows is one of the most elaborate stunt sequences I’ve ever seen, accompanied by some quite astonishing sound design.
As directed by Sam Hargrave, with a screenplay written by Joe Russo, Extraction 2 literally thunders along. Hemsworth breaks into prison to retrieve his targets. Getting in proves relatively easy, getting out is pure chaos.
An astonishing Dolby Atmos mix
The visual conceit of the first Extraction was the seemingly one-take nature of its violence: the scenes are breathless, visceral and beautifully choreographed. That carries on here, only the ambition has been notched up. Think The Raid meets 1917 via John Wick.
The prison breakout is for all intents and purposes a 21-minute continuous slobberknocker. The camera is with Hemsworth all the time as he shoots, hoots and boots his way out. At one point he even catches fire, but he still keeps on slugging.
This long take is twice the length of the longest single take in the original film. It’s not actually a single take, but a seamless stitch-up that literally spins you, and your home theatre, around.
The movie uses dozens of techniques to make the Dolby Atmos soundtrack more immersive.
When Tyler Rake stealths his way into the prison, he passes guards chattering in the top right rear of the sound mix.
Prison hubbub is resident in the height channel, with alarms in constant movement. Tyler blows a metal door and the blast pans from the L/C/R overhead to my rears. All the while, the industrial metal score pumps rhythmically in stereo, while dialogue remains central.
Try these same sequences on your system and see what you hear. I was listening on a 5.1.2 home theatre speaker package, but you can expect many of these directional cues to render differently on soundbars.
A test for your subwoofer too
Incidentally a lot of this prison break is darkly lit, which should provide a fascinating stress test for your TV display.
As Rake and his crew manoeuvre through the prison yard, crowd noise circles with the camera, putting you squarely amid the action.
A subsequent bike and car chase through the surrounding forest orchestrates vehicles and explosions at every speaker point, and gives the LFE channel plenty to do. When Tyler’s car flips, gunfire peppers from the rear soundstage, dynamic and surprising. The sonic workout is constant. When the train carriage referenced earlier careers through a tunnel, I could almost feel the air being sucked out of the room.
Of course, it’s not all aural excess. There are quiet moments too, with dialogue closely mic’d, and artful foley effects keeping things real, but it’s the sheer imagination and chutzpah of the chaos that make Extraction 2 demo-system gold.
My verdict: Extraction 2 is one of the most rewarding home cinema experiences of the year. Watch it with your AV system cranked high.
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