In the age we live in technology is insidiously infiltrating everything around us. For better or worse (and sometimes for both) we have access to information at all times through our TV’s, phones and watches. Screens surround us and computers are installed in everything transforming our homes, buildings and modes of transportation into intelligent environments and this is just the beginning.
Attempting to give us a glimpse of what might lay ahead Upgrade is the creation of legendary horror director and writer Leigh Whannell who is behind both the Saw and Insidious series. Jumping genres into Sci-Fi his action packed film is set in a very believable near future where police drones patrol the skies and driverless cars roam the streets.
Technophobe Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green from Prometheus and Spider-Man: Homecoming) prefers to work with his hands fixing up old cars for rich clients all the while trying to avoiding constant contact with the computer reliant realm the world has become and his partner Asha (Melanie Vallejo) works in.
On the journey home with his wife from dropping off his latest commissioned car to reclusive and peculiar billionaire inventor Eron Keen (In the Tall Grasses Harrison Gilbertson) there automatic car is involved in a crash in a very undesirable part of town. Dragged from the wreckage by a gang after the thugs paralyse Grey he is forced to helplessly watch as his love is executed in front of him.
Left for dead Grey is physically and psychologically ruined and now trapped in his own body unable to move from the neck down, haunted by the horror he witnessed and debating whether to end it all on a daily basis. That is until Eron Keen re-enters his life offering an untested answer to all his problems named STEM.
A super intelligent chip capable of doing almost anything, Keen claims the top secret STEM will allow Grey to move again serving as a bridge from his brain to the rest of his body. The process works and Grey is given a new lease of life along with a purpose to avenge his wife all with the help of STEM. However the chip is much more than it seems something the vengeance filled widow learns when he hears the AI speaking to him in his head.
A brilliant blend of Robocop and Faust brought bang up to date Upgrade evolves before the audiences eyes transforming from a Sci-Fi drama into a brutal action revenge thriller and finally all out horror all under the expertly direction of Whannell.
As much about artificial intelligence and the dangers of messing with things we don’t understand at the centre of Upgrade is the theme of our relationship with technology and our increasing reliance on it. Grey needs STEM to move, it is a tool that helps him like the wrenches he uses to fix cars but how much of it is him and how much is the AI and who is really in control?
Dark and dirty and filled as it is with Virtual reality addicts, robot run homes and cyborg killers the cyberpunk world Whannell creates is just believable enough to completely engage us and inventive enough to entertain.
Stylish and packed full of excellent effects from the subtle to the sensational, central to everything is the story and the main performance both of which are great and gripping. As Grey, Logan Marshall-Green runs the gamut of emotions starting out as a happy hard working Luddite progressing to a paraplegic who has lost all hope and ending up an unstoppable super human imbued with a highly advanced AI.
More emotional than you may expect Marshall-Green really brings Grey’s tragic trajectory to life in an authentic and raw performance. His physicality is also exceptional causing the viewer to almost forget he is actually acting in the awesome fight scenes where STEM takes over his body converting him into a killing machine.
Upgrade doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the visceral violence or gut wrenching sentiment and is all the better for it proving not only that horror directors can transcend there genre but often they bring more to the movies they make outside pure horror.
Superb from start to finish Upgrade provides as much stimulation for your senses as it does for your mind leaving you questioning what you would do if given the same choices as Grey and how far away this disturbing vision of the future really is.