Upgrade is a science-fiction movie which follows Grey Trace, a man who becomes paralyzed and has been implanted with an experimental technology which allows a hyper-intelligent AI to control his body. It explores the dangers of technological advancement as well as the more interpersonal, emotional facets of grief, revenge, and power.
When you're writing about technology and AI, there's an extremely thin line between refreshing and cheap. UPGRADE is that line. It has wobbles on either side, but it mostly traverses a wonderfully stylistic if unoriginal narrative that is elevated by the stellar craftsmanship at hand here.
The writing, for the most part, I was very okay with. The story is convincing, bouncing off all-too familiar plot beats to set up the delicious blend of technological thriller and body horror revenge movie. The two genres bounce off each other very well, providing some fresh insights on a somewhat worn out concept of futuristic technology with some nice balancing between tones.
Leigh Whannell keeps everything moving very quickly, the pacing extremely fitting for a movie like this. The direction is solid throughout, the action pieces hyper-stylistic with works beautifully with the premise. The duality of Grey's initial hesitation with STEM's monotonous, danger presence is played out very well in these moments, particularly during the first big action sequence. I'm certainly looking forward to whatever Whannell chooses to tackle next.
The performances are all efficient, from what should be Logan Marshall-Green's star-making performance. He shows a variety of range with this turn, with shades of Tom Hardy popping in and out throughout, at least that was the vibe that I got from it. The supporting players do their jobs well, but special mention must be given to Simon Maiden as the voice of STEM. Playing off the infamous HAL in every way but without directly impersonating him, Maiden provides a gentle, delicate baseboard for a quietly lurking presence with serves the film very well in its later acts.
Some of the dialogue I had an issue with, basically everything that the character of Fisk says in this entire movie is weak and doesn't do a lot to ameliorate his already lacking characterisation. I wish it had gone through another edit because it stood out like a sore thumb. It's a shame because the rest of the writing was really quite engaging.
I also didn't care for how the third act plays out - I really liked the tone of the ending, but the 10 minutes before that provide absolutely no pay off and I would have liked to have seen something different done to set up the ending in a less expository way. But those are minor gripes in something I very much enjoyed!