Monday, June 25, 2018

Upgrade Review: A Gritty and Innovated Experience!

In the summer season it is expected to see blockbuster after blockbuster hit the big screen. Yet among the array of anticipated films there are alternatives, such as indie or low budgeted films, that find their way into the season. A fine example of this is the new sci-fi thriller simply known as Upgrade. Written and directed by Leigh Whannell Upgrade takes sci-fi concepts and meshes them with the film subgenre of body horror. In the past week I have heard the rumblings of Upgrade’s success to the point where the film may in fact become a sleeper hit for this year. Needless to say I was curious to see this movie for myself and after experiencing it I can say that Upgrade is not just a hit but it is arguably one of the best films I have seen all year.   

Upgrade centers on Grey (Logan Marshall-Green): a mechanic left for dead after criminals paralyze him and kill his wife Asha (Melaine Vallejo). However after being infused with a computer system called STEM not only is Grey able to move again but is granted superhuman abilities which gives him more than enough power to avenge his wife. There was much going for the plot of Upgrade. At first it was a little difficult to get into the story as it felt a little sporadic, but once it gets going it was hard not to be enamoured by this tale. The plot uses a variety of themes, such as the ghost and the machine, that have been used in many movies before it, but how the plot executed its ideas is what made all the difference. Blending a revenge story with that of a man becoming a monster tale, the plot utilized its concepts in a way that felt very refreshing. Along with its keen use of themes was the story’s setting which brought a practical sense to a futuristic world. The structure could be rather predictable but it was still effective and did not hinder the plot’s payoff, or delivery, in anyway.

It may not have had the most star studded of ensembles but the cast of Upgrade was more than effective. Logan Marshall-Green provided a surprising performance as Grey as he gave a sense of charisma to the broken hero. Along with a solid protagonist was a decent supporting cast. While they did not leave the most distinct of impressions, the supporting cast had plenty of character to it which was seen in the likes of Cortez (Betty Gabriel), Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) and Fisk (Benedict Hardie). Yet the one who stood out from the rest was none other than the A.I. Stem (Simon Maiden). Artificial characters are nothing new but Stem certainly raised the bar for them as his characterization was unique in both relevance and performance. In the end the cast of Upgrade was a simple one but, through its development and performances, this group showed that quality outweighs quantity any day of the week. 

Presentation was key for Upgrade and this evident in the film's technical elements. The effects were spectacular as it blended cg and practical techniques to near perfection. Along with the stellar effects was the impressive cinematography as the film's camerawork was dynamic and created some of the best shots I have seen in awhile. The cinematography also aided other elements such as the action which was both definitive as well as gritty. Adding to the film’s presentation was the music by Jed Palmer which fit the movie’s sci-fi themes and provided outlandish sounds for this dynamic movie.

To say that Upgrade was a surprise may very well be an understatement. While the movie relied on simplistic ideas in both story and characters, it was its dynamic presentation that  allowed this body horror film to stand out to the point where even the most common traits felt refreshing. From its thematic concepts to its stunning effects, Upgrade is a breath of fresh air for not just its genre but the summer season as a whole.