Movie #267 2020: Upgrade (2018)

Ohhhh so this is how Leigh Whannell got the Invisible Man gig. Futuristic technological advancements made to look slick but act sinister? Makes sense. If you ever get round to watching this, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Upgrade is the 2018 effort from Whannell, which has some awfully similar themes to that of his most recent movie. (Looking back on it, it’s hard to believe that The Invisible Man was a 2020 movie. You know, with cinemas being closed for what felt like six years.) Just like that film, Upgrade shows its viewer what could happen when the bots take over in a Black Mirror-esque fashion. After a planned attack leaves Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) paralysed and his wife dead, he looks to technology. Lucky for him, he meets a billionaire who has created an artificial intelligence implant named STEM. Grey finds himself able to walk again, and not only that, but he’s a grade A fighting machine. Now basically invincible, Grey sets out to find the thugs who conducted the attack that cost him his beloved.

In terms of tone, Upgrade can be an extremely slow burn at times, but when the action and fight sequences kick in it’s a visual feast and definitely worth the challenge. The robotic, stylised combat scenes are original and unique with some excellent angular camerawork that you’ll be pushed to find anywhere else. Again, Whannell’s fascination with technological advancements shines through here, and it’s a really interesting premise that many find compelling in this day and age.

Some of the visual effects in this are absolutely brilliant. I particularly loved the “bionic sneeze” sequence (as I like to call it), which has some amazing close-up animation effects. One can only imagine how long that took to perfect, and the time and effort really pays off on screen.

This is my second Logan Marshall-Green movie at The Quayside Review and I have to say, he’s proving himself to be a great, underrated talent. The dudes playing the “bad guys” in this movie aren’t quite up to scratch though sadly. Imagine Darth Vader if they’d cast Tom Hanks to voice him instead of James Earl Jones, and this is what you get. More menace was overwhelmingly necessary here.

Technically speaking, Upgrade is an excellent film. Quite disappointingly though, it is too poorly paced and the messiness of the plot leads to way too much confusion. It isn’t clear enough where the film is going until it gets there, making it way too difficult a watch to really get on board with it.

Despite its misgivings, this is a decent addition to Leigh Whannell‘s filmography, and paired with The Invisible Man, it’s quite obvious why he’s been linked to the remake of 1941 classic horror movie, The Wolf Man. He most definitely has a great directorial career ahead of him, and Upgrade certainly won’t put you off watching any of his movies in the future.

Upgrade is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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