After a vicious attack leaves mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) paralysed from the neck down and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) dead, he slumps into a deep depression. But when an experimental microchip - called STEM - offers him the chance of walking again, Grey sees the opportunity to seek revenge against those who killed his wife. For STEM is much more than a microchip, it's an advanced form of artificial intelligence, one that grants Grey a lot more than the ability to walk. The only question is; who's really in control?
Director Leigh Whannell raises an interesting question with this cyberpunk thriller; how far would you go to get the use of your body back? This shiny yet gritty look at the "not too distant future" raises some good points for both sides of that argument. Something Grey certainly learns the hard way as he sets off on his quest for vengeance. In many ways it's much like RoboCop, his perfect life is torn to pieces in ultra violent fashion as he quite literally lies there powerless to stop it. I like the fact that these events are not only terrifying, they're gory too. Whannell makes no attempts to shy away from what it's really like to be the victim of a violent crime. Logan Marshall-Green demonstrates great range in his performance, as he ably portrays all the emotions the victim of such a tragedy would be feeling. It's a very genuine performance, making it very easy to empathise with Grey.
Upgrade has been shot in interesting ways too. During some of the spectacular fight scenes between these upgraded people, the camera moves in ways that emphasise their super human abilities. The choreography is very innovative, especially during the scenes where Grey allows STEM to take control of his body. Grey's movements become very mechanical - kind of like Peter Weller's Robocop. But it's the face that sells it, the horrified look as his head seems to move independently of the rest of his body, think C-3PO in Attack of the Clones, when his head is attached to the body of a battle droid, only more horrifying. At times it becomes apparent how out of his depths Grey is, and you really get a feel for how much he is changed by this whole experience. Imagine witnessing a murder, only it's your hands doing the killing.
Unfortunately, it seems that all the innovation went into the look of the movie. Upgrade is let down by a very predictable story. Five minutes in and I already knew who the bad guy was and why he did what he did, and pretty much how it was going to end. Although it is fun to see STEM let loose for the first time, and an interrogation in a dive bar men's room is a lot of fun, it's just not enough to save the movie from its own predictability. Granted, the same can be said of a lot of movies, but with Upgrade, more could have been done to disguise where the plot would eventually lead. It was very disappointing, given that everything else about this movie is so well done. I wanted to be proven wrong, to get to the end of the movie and see a different outcome, but that was not the case.
Logan Marshall- Green is on top of his game as the very broken lead, in this inventively shot cyberpunk thriller. Upgrade does however, suffer from a lack of mystery. The ability to see where events are leading before the movie really gets started, distracts from the incredible innovations that are happening on screen. Maybe the movie's legacy will be its revolutionary shooting techniques, but I am in no rush to see more of Grey or STEM any time soon.
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