Spoilers for the Extraction ending follow below.
The Netflix original movie Extraction ends in a way that’s pretty darn ambiguous, leaving viewers with one burning question: Is Tyler alive? The entirety of the action film follows Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake reluctantly escorting and protecting a young boy named Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal) in the streets of Dhaka, and from the beginning of the movie it’s clear that Tyler doesn’t really care if he lives or dies. But along the way, he develops a relationship with the young boy and comes to terms with his own son’s death, to the point that when he’s fighting to get Ovi across the bridge at the end of the movie, he’s not being careless. He’s being sacrificial.
And just when it seems as though Tyler has cleared out all the baddies, he’s shot through the neck by Farhad (Suraj Rikame). He falls over, and we presume that he dies. But in the film’s closing moments, Ovi jumps into a pool—a shot that mirrors the first time we met Tyler—and when he comes up to the surface, a figure is standing in the background that looks a heck of a lot like Tyler. The shot never racks focus to reveal who that figure is, whether it’s actually Tyler and Hemsworth’s character survived or if it’s just a figment of Ovi’s imagination, and the question lingers long after the credits have rolled. Is Tyler dead or alive?
We posed this question to Extraction co-writer and producer Joe Russo when Collider’s own Steve Weintraub spoke to him about making the film, and the Avengers: Endgame co-director said the ending is supposed to be ambiguous:
“Our approach, and I know [director] Sam Hargrave’s approach, is that is a poetic shot. It’s meant to have an open interpretation. It is meant to represent hope and it could represent the boy’s hope in a future, that he had a guardian watching over him and now he’s got a shot at a normal life. But you can interpret it any way you want, you can interpret it that he’s alive and you can interpret it that he’s a figment of his imagination.”
We also interviewed Hargrave, who made his feature directorial debut on the film, and he went further to reveal that the original ending of the movie made it explicit that Hemsworth’s character died. But in testing the film, audiences were split 50/50 over whether they liked that ending or hated it. Some were okay with Tyler’s dying, and some absolutely rejected the notion that the film’s hero didn’t make it out alive. So the filmmakers went with a more ambiguous ending to the film, which Hargrave told us was something of a happy compromise:
“What you see in the movie is a compromise. Because a lot of us who are in the original camp didn’t want him to survive, a lot in the new camp wanted him to live. We tested it, and it was literally down the middle for people who wanted him to live versus die. So we’re like, hey, we’ll give you the best of both worlds, we’re gonna have this ambiguous ending where you can choose your own adventure.”
Indeed, Russo says the most important thing about the Extraction ending is that Ovi has a sense of hope in his life, and whatever your interpretation, that’s accomplished:
“I think that’s the beauty of having a poetic shot at the end of the film, is that you can walk away from the movie with your own interpretation of it. It is an oppressive movie in a lot of ways. It’s emotionally wrought. And it was important to us that there was hope for the boy at the end of the film.”