Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence, horror, offensive language & content that may disturb
Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace
Betty Gabriel as Cortez
Harrison Gilbertson as Eron Keen
Director: Leigh Whannell
A brutal mugging leaves Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) paralyzed in the hospital and his beloved wife (Melanie Vallejo) dead. A billionaire inventor (Harrison Gilbertson) soon offers Trace a cure — an artificial intelligence implant called STEM that will enhance his body. Now able to walk, Grey finds that he also has superhuman strength and agility — skills he uses to seek revenge against the thugs who destroyed his life.
Upgrade is a movie I’ve been hearing about for a while. On paper it sounded like a really silly B movie but apparently it was quite good, so I had been meaning to check it out. Upgrade more than lived up to the hype, with its simple but effective story, really impressive direction and a great leading performance by Logan Marshall Green.
Upgrade has a pretty straightforward premise: normal guy and his wife get attacked, she dies and he gets badly hurt. He receives something that makes him a killing machine and seeks to find out who killed his wife. Director Leigh Whannell also wrote the script to Upgrade and he made this simple but effective story work really well. The plot is not overcomplicated and a little simple, but its not without some depth, asking some questions about technology and man vs machine. These concepts and ideas aren’t fully explored like other sci-fi movies but its still much more than you’d expect. It even has a twist ending that I wasn’t entirely expecting, really effective way to end the story. I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel, there’s definitely a lot of potential there. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, and it was the right length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and yet its long enough, with a pacing that keeps the movie moving at an adequate speed.
Logan Marshall Green has been in many movies, the ones I’ve seen being Prometheus, Devil and Spider-Man Homecoming and while he was good enough in his roles there, with Upgrade he really gets to show off his acting skills. He has to show off so many sides to his character, he had to be vulnerable, he had to be convincingly badass, he had to be funny and deadpan, he has to show some of the conflict that he has (especially near the end), he has to show all of that, and LMG absolutely handles all of this with ease. I really do hope that Upgrade will make people take more notice of him because it really showed how talented he is. Make no mistake, while at least half of the movie working is due to the direction, at least 40% of it is due to Logan Marshall Green’s performance. Performances from other actors like Betty Gabriel were also good. On another note, Simon Maiden’s voice performance as STEM (the AI chip inplanted in Logan Marshall Green’s character) is also great, a real stand out character. I guess the one criticism that I could have with this movie is that the characters are written rather thin and there’s not really much to them, but there’s more here than you’d usually expect from a movie of this sort of plot.
Upgrade is directed by Leigh Whannell, who previously directed Insidious: Chapter 3 and while I liked that movie, he showed an immense amount of talent here. For a film with a 3-5 million dollar budget, the visual style on the whole was great, with great cinematography. Upgrade is definitely set in the future but it’s also grounded in reality with some grit, so it doesn’t go full cyberpunk or anything. The action is entertaining, fast and absolutely brutal. There are times where the movie is even somewhat reminiscent of body horror movies from the 1980s. Even the camera movements are great, a stand out being how sometimes the camera follows LMG whenever STEM takes over during action scenes, tilting and moving following his movements. The score by Jed Palmer is also great.
Upgrade is one of the most surprising movies of 2018. Leigh Whannell took this simple premise and worked wonders with it, delivering a fast, original, entertaining and brutal sci-fi action flick, made even better by Logan Marshall Green’s great performance. I suggest checking it out sometime, Upgrade looks like it’s going to be somewhat of a cult classic.