Can the misrepresentation really be dismissed?
During the coronavirus lockdown, many are spending time watching movies at home with a lot of brouhaha going about the Netflix action flick called Extraction. The film is based in Old Dhaka, though apart from aerial shots of Sadarghat, there is no trace of the old city.
With so much being said, and the film getting a lot of positive reviews for the action, I decided to go through it. I use “go through” because it’s hardly something to savour.
The film is a straightforward, blood-and-gore production aimed at disconcerting the viewer. While I found it disturbing, many have extolled the fight scenes. Why, I haven’t the faintest clue. For action, people should watch Wild Geese.
But the main problem is that it wrongly represents Bangladesh, where law enforcers and the military are in connivance with underground mafia bosses.
It’s a film, some would try to rationalize, but when a nation is falsely presented in almost 70% of the screening time, there has to be some malicious intent.
Foreigners in Old Dhaka
In reality, when foreigners are in Old Dhaka, they have large groups of people admiring or trying to talk to them. Even if locals do not get close, they follow them from a distance. In the movie, we see a man-mountain called Tyler Rake, played by Chris Helmsworth, moving about with bulging muscles without attracting any attention.
Then there’s another guy who goes to the roof of a derelict building carrying a large sniper rifle. So, all these activities going on and the police are stoned?
The moment foreigners are in the old city, local police are informed and they usually go to the area to ensure that outsiders are not bothered. This has been the standard rule after the Holey Artisan attack.
Let’s assume, for the movie’s sake, that these robustly-built people can wander without raising any interest.
Old Dhaka is a thriving part of the city featuring flamboyant people, eclectic food, and imposing Mughal architecture. This movie shows it as a dim, dingy, squalid area -- in short, a hell hole of depravity!
How did the weapons enter Bangladesh?
Suddenly, we find diabolical weapons being produced by Rake and company, with an asinine woman also going about carrying rocket launchers. Where did these weapons come from?
Surely, they didn’t declare at the airport customs: “Hey buddy, don’t open that large black bag; it contains automatic rifles, rocket launchers, and enough bullets to wipe out your law enforcers!”
A few obtrusive figures swarm around Old Dhaka with deadly weapons, unleashing bravado-laced expletives. The film’s script can barely fill the backside of a postage stamp. What censor board passes a movie where every other line is laced with the four-letter word?
The cars are wrong and so is the Bangla
The police are seen driving Indian-made Hyundai cars; our police does not use this brand. The trucks and other vehicles do not represent Old Dhaka either. Parking a few CNGs here and there in a sequence is hardly convincing.
The language used is not a Dhakaiya dialect, but Bangla from West Bengal.
Vilifying law enforcers
No police force can claim to be scrupulously honest, but this film shows the whole elite unit, dressed in black to allude to RAB, as a venal institute with the head of the branch complicit with the drug lord.
In fact, the kingpin is given a police escort while he moves about. We may have corruption, but there hasn’t been any instance where drug barons were openly supported by law enforcers.
This is a totally wrong representation of Bangladesh. Some will dismiss my point saying that it’s only a movie. But is it only a film?
Films use subtle methods to influence viewers’ thought patterns -- the west used Cold War espionage propaganda in movies to implant that the KGB are always the villains, and the other side the perennial heroes.
Extraction’s underlying message seems to be: Dhaka is a cesspit of crime and the country is so dysfunctional that the police and army often aid criminals.
A group of mercenaries come and wreak havoc, and local law enforcers are sitting ducks. How ridiculous!
In the end, Rake falls off a bridge and disappears, only to show up in the last scene as a distant figure in another country.
How did he get out of the Buriganga River, and eventually Bangladesh? Maybe there was a submarine there, which somehow evaded our navy?
A terribly flawed film with a feeble plot, its main aim is to tarnish the image of Bangladesh. Unfortunately, we are so used to suspension of disbelief that major celluloid glitches are overlooked.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka.