Upgrade is set in the near, technologically advanced future. It focuses on Grey Trace, a self-proclaimed technophobe. One day, his entire world is turned upside down when he is left paraplegic after a horrific mugging. Not only that but he was forced to watch his wife bleed out & die before his eyes. Contemplating suicide, Grey is given a lifeline in the form of an experimental computer chip implant called STEM.
Upgrade is a science fiction, action-horror film that released in June, 2018. It was written & directed by Leigh Whannell. Just in case you’re unaware, he is the writer of many well-known horror films such as; Saw, Insidious 1-4 & Dead Silence. Upgrade is only his second attempt at directing, after Insidious: Chapter 3.
While recovering in hospital, Grey is visited by Eron Keen a famous tech innovator in charge of an augmentation company called Vessel. Eron pitches the experimental procedure that involves STEM. Initially, Grey refuses. However, after falling into a deep depression he goes through with the surgery. He regains control of his limbs faster than expected. Eron then has Grey sign a non-disclosure agreement to conceal STEM from everyone, including the police, and pretend to still be paralyzed when in public. While looking through case files on his wife’s murder that night, Grey hears STEM speak into his mind. STEM says it can help Grey get revenge and quickly identifies one of the assailants, a local man named Serk, from a drone video feed.
STEM also discovers that Serk and the assailants had modified guns implanted into their arms, explaining why police were unable to identify a murder weapon. Grey decides to investigate Serk personally.
Grey breaks into Serk’s home and discovers he was ‘upgraded’ as a result of a secret military experiment. Serk then returns home and discovers Grey, leading to a fight between the two. Knowing Serk will easily overpower Grey, STEM convinces Grey to temporarily give up control of his body. Under STEM’s control, Grey becomes a lethally efficient fighting machine, ending the fight by splitting Serk’s jaw open with a kitchen knife.
Afterwards, Grey continues to hunt down those that have a connection to the events of that night. All the while, a determined police officer is growing more and more suspicious. Eron learns what happened by tracking STEM’s movements and berates Grey for his vigilantism. Ignoring this, Grey continues his pursuit of revenge. Due to this, Eron attempts to shut down STEM who directs him to a hacker nearby who can sever Eron’s connection.
Will Grey get the revenge he seeks?
Upgrade achieves many things, one of this is convincing me that the science fiction, action-horror genre is extremely underutilized. Seriously, this might just be my new favourite genre. Upgrade is like a combination of Robocop, Deus Ex & John Wick. I mean this is in the very best way possible. It manages to be some many things at once but still well-balanced at the same time.
The Cinematography is exceptionally slick, you’ll love how expertly it follows the action. Every scene that involves Grey fighting someone with the help of STEM is an automatic show stealer. Grey manoeuvres robotically during these scenes due to STEM, it’s very entertaining. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of these moments as they are undoubtedly the strongest in the film. Logan Marshall-Green does an exceptional job of making it look like he has no control over his actions.
At its very core, Upgrade is a simple revenge tale. However, it comes with a number of layers. I’ve already mentioned the brutality and violence that is on display. This comes with some impressive practical effects that look very nasty. Also, it has a number of twists and turns that helped keep me compelled until the very end. Logan Marshall-Green deserves a lot of credit for his highly emotive performance.
Still, Upgrade could have done a slightly better job of making you feel emotionally invested in the death of Grey’s wife. We get a couple of scenes that add some weight but it could have used more. The world isn’t particularly fleshed out which is a shame. Although, this was likely due to budgetary reasons. The believable nature of the futuristic world in Upgrade is refreshing though. The soundtrack is another highlight.
Overall, Upgrade is one of the best Sci-Fi movies that I have seen in many years. It just so happens to have horror elements that really are the icing on the cake. What surprised me the most while watching Upgrade was the fact that I had never heard of it. This is a film that deserves much more exposure, I highly recommend it.