+ Recommended – R, Action, Sci-fi, Thriller
It’s not often that I find a sleeper hit during the summer months. However, Leigh Whannell’s (Saw, Insidious) new flick proves that there’s still a bright future for the genre of science fiction. Upgrade strays from the traditional, on-the-nose story points often found in these genre films and dives straight into the core focus of the plot.
After a devastating loss, technophobe Grey (Logan Marshell-Green) must learn to deal with a crippling disability and recover his identity. Set in the near future, where Earth has become more technologically advanced than previously thought possible, Grey receives an implant that reinstates and enhances his capabilities as a newly disabled individual. Upgrade‘s not confused about what it is or what it is trying to do; shaving-off any unnecessary fat from the edges.
Green delivers a performance that had me nearly in tears at times and then chuckling at others; supporting cast members are strong but don’t overpower our main protagonist. We are supposed to believe that Grey and his wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), are deeply in love and have been for years. I didn’t buy it even a little. However, the strength of that relationship rests entirely on Grey’s feelings. Green successfully portrays the emotional weight of their relationship at several points during the film without saying many words.
Not many films succeed in differing camera motions, but here it’s almost seamless. There’s a clear separation between pre-Stem and post-Stem. Like Blade Runner 2049, the soundtrack provided extra padding for the underlying, dense tone; sonically, I was very pleased. I would argue that the music selection becomes infinitely more important for the final product when discussing genre films like horror and science fiction; although any genre would benefit from a killer score (pun intended).
At this point you’re probably thinking: what’s the downside to this film? Well, the buildup before Grey receives the Stem carries on for a decent amount of run time; for me, it was just right. But if you’re expecting a straight action movie then you’re bound to be upset. Whannell focuses more attention to small detail and tone rather than forcing audiences to indulge in an hour and a half of ultra-violence. Information regarding this version of Earth is also scarce, leaving any clues about what this reality is like to the audiences’ eye. For some, this will come across as shallow world-building.
Overall, Upgrade provides the entertainment sci-fi fans crave. While not a straight action movie, it packs enough surprises to keep theatre-goers chomping down on some popcorn. Don’t expect to be blown away but do expect to be surprised, especially considering how many people didn’t know that this was even coming to the theatre. Go watch Upgrade and then comment and let us know what you thought of the movie!