Sunday, 5 May 2019

Upgrade (2018)

UpgradePoster.jpgDirector: Leigh Whannell
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson, Melanie Vallejo, Benedict Hardie, Linda Cropper, Simon Maiden, Christopher Kirby, Clayton Jacobson

After suffering a brutal mugging which leaves him paralysed, and his wife dead, Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is ready to give up on life. A billionaire inventor offers Grey a revolutionary implant called STEM (voiced by Simon Maiden), which gives him the ability to walk once more. It also can communicate with Grey, offering a chance for vengeance against the men responsible for the mugging.

Having made his directorial debut on 2013's Insidious: Chapter 3, one of the more preferable entries into the franchise, Leigh Whannell returns to the directors chair with a high-tech throwback to the revenge action flicks of the 80's, complete with hinging on the trope of fridging the wife. As is the norm, the story is populated with action set-pieces, and it's evident Whannell has a clear eye for crafting these fights. The combined efforts of the camera work, sound design and choreography ensure these altercations are exciting to witness, while the gory effects also help wherever necessary.

What's key though is how this isn't the films centre, but rather is all based around Grey attempting to cope with grief. He may have regained the ability to move his limbs, but he still has to live without the woman he loves, and while he's finding temporary solace in technology, he has to be wary of falling too deeply into something before it's too late. Carrying over his impressive work in 2016's The Invitation, Logan Marshall-Green once more magnificently captures the sorrow deep seated within his character. He also channels the physical comedy of Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II, as he grants permission for STEM to control his bodily functions during physical altercations, leading to him reacting with shocked expressions as his own body causes great damage to others.

Characterised as a technophobe who doesn't welcome the advances technology keeps making, it's safe to say that Grey suddenly becoming reliant on such machinery throws up some wrinkles. While Whannell offers up hints at the world outside these futuristic windows, his focus is more on how this changing world affects this man who was content to just fix up old cars in his garage. The biggest example of such an affect is STEM, the technology who communicates with Grey inside his head, wonderfully brought alive by Simon Maiden's deadpan delivery. Their chemistry results in a fantastic pairing which drives the film, and some may compare with the chemistry shared between Eddie Brock and the eponymous symbiote in Venom (the comparison keeps piling on, considering how much Marshall-Green and Tom Hardy look alike). Also worth mentioning is Betty Gabriel, who does able work as the detective trying to help Grey find justice, but gets mixed up in the trial of bloody revenge.

A futuristic throwback to the revenge flicks of yesteryear, Upgrade is a compelling look at grief in the middle of thrilling action set pieces.

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