Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when the world of Grey, a self-labeled technophobe, is turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experim... Read allSet in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when the world of Grey, a self-labeled technophobe, is turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant.Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when the world of Grey, a self-labeled technophobe, is turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant.
Something that really makes Upgrade stand out is Logan Marshall-Green, who offers a truly impressive physical performance that is both demanding and complicated to achieve. The controlling of his body by an AI leads to some stylish fight choreography, and Marshall-Green doesn't stutter in adding robotic, calculated movements to those scenes, while simultaneously acting in juxtaposition with his head and facial expressions. He's confused and bewildered while he slices a guy up with a kitchen knife, he brags and gloats while his body effortlessly dispatches of goons, he pleads with bad guys not to continue fighting while his robotic-moving arms quickly and decisively disarm and dispatch of them. He holds such an impressive disconnect between his head and his body that I couldn't even imagine how hard it must have been to develop such physical coordination while acting and making it look effortless at the same time. Marshall-Green has never particularly impressed me before, but he has now.
Even further though are clever uses of cameras adding another dimension to the film's visual identity. The high points are, again, the fight scenes, where the camera is just as involved in the choreography as the actors and stuntmen are. To add an even greater emphasis on the disconnect between Grey's mind and his body, the camera often keeps him fixed in frame while the settings around him movie. He's just enjoying the ride while his body does the moving, and we're put in that mindset. The way they did it is mount the camera in a rotating frame, hide a phone on Marshall-Green's body, and get them to match orientation. When Marshall-Green moves, the camera moves with him. This becomes especially impressive when Grey ducks and dives, or does full-on back-flips, and the camera mirrors his movements perfectly.
Beyond that, the cinematography goes a long way to make this low-budget movie look much more expensive. Lighting is dim and harsh, camera angles are conservative yet stylish, and the CGI is used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary, which has a knock-on effect of grounding an otherwise futuristic world without getting too lofty. The score by Jed Palmer is also fantastic. I was maybe a little disappointed that Whannell didn't go for a Saw-esque climatic track for the third-act revelations, but nonetheless the score is evocative of sci-fi movies of the 70s and 80s, with borderline synthwave tracks interspersed amongst more ambient sounds.
Upgrade is a solid sci-fi flick that manages to be refreshing and unique despite its otherwise overdone story elements. It ended up being a better Venom movie than Venom. All it took was an imaginative filmmaker like Leigh Whannell. I honestly can't wait to see what he manages to do next. I give Upgrade a solid 8/10.
- Feb 9, 2020