Going into this movie I saw this film as a throwaway action flick to round out a double-feature, but as I was watching it soared over my expectations.
Leigh Whannell, as both writer and director, crafts a believable semi-apocalyptic world for us to play in. “Upgrade” is in essence an upgraded version of the revenge film, ala “Taken” or “John Wick”. It revolves around our leading actor, Logan Marshall-Green (“The Invitation”, “Prometheus”) as Grey Trace, a down to earth mechanic, living in a world surrounded by auto-driving cars and technological enhancements. After a twisted turn of events his wife gets murdered, (we are still fringing women in Hollywood I see) and he ends up hospitalized and a paraplegic. He decides to opt in to an unsanctioned and highly experimental mechanical implant that will allow him to avenge his wife and find her killers.
Now as a movie I really enjoyed this film, but the characters in it all somewhat faded into the background as we focus on Grey and his new abilities, which isn’t a super bad thing in my book, but having 2, you could argue 3 actual characters in the film makes it feel a bit hollow. The plot ran along in a classic 3 act pattern: setup, confrontation, and resolution, which again isn’t bad, but there was one huge blow dealt to this film, the predictability. After the first 20 minutes of the film, my girlfriend, who attended the film with me, correctly predicted all but the very final scene of the film. And it made sense why, there are plenty of films like this out there, so there will be beats that somewhat always have to get hit.
There were really three saving graces of the film, one was literally the film itself. The cinematography, the camera movements and angles, the way the shots change depending on the perspective, we’re all absolutely fantastic. Not to spoil too much, but there is one shot in the trailer that shows how the camera follows Grey in certain scenes that makes it feel like he is almost being stalked by a presence, a cold robotic eye. The second thing is the acting of the leading man. His transition from confident, every-man, to broken and defeated, and the complete 180 he takes after receiving the enhancements, shows of his acting chops. If you watch the trailer you can see a small clip of him using his enhancements and just how robotic he moves, contrast to his face filled with horror and confusion at what is happened is just perfect. The last thing was the ending, which I won’t spoil here, but it makes the movie and the overall message of the film feel morally and thematically in the vein of a “Terminator” meets “Ex Machina”.
In conclusion, “Upgrade” is a new age revenge film, with some forgettable supporting characters, but a lovable Logan Marshall-Green doing what he does best alongside some great camerawork.