UPGRADE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: LEIGH WHANNELL / STARRING: LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN, MELANIE VALLEJO, STEVE DANIELSEN / RELEASE DATE: 18TH NOVEMBER
Directed by Leigh Whannell (Insidious: Chapter 3) this sci-fi / horror (influenced by film noir) explains the unfortunate situation of mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green). After his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) is killed and he is partially disabled in a targeted car crash in 2046, Grey is forced to regain full body function with the use of advanced AI chip STEM, thanks to the help of his constantly distracted friend Eron. As he does so, his detective quest for revenge begins.
Disturbingly reminding you of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Simon Maiden plays the persuasive and unnerving voice of STEM to a tee and, as Grey's thirst for justice quickly spirals out of control with violent combat, the more controlling and dangerous his supposedly reliant AI becomes. This crush between overly intelligent tech and the fragile limits of the human mind is the craziest investigation that you'll probably ever sit through, and it’s an uncomfortable pairing that crescendos to a terrifying outcome.
Agreeing to not share details of his body transformation with anyone by Eron, the film is able to add a mysterious coating that audiences will highly benefit from. Proof of this can be found in tense scenes with Detective Cortez (Betty Gabriel) - responsible for trying to break down how this all happened to Grey, she keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as she is forever just one tiny step behind Grey's real version which, thanks to STEM, has cruised way past the standard structure of the law.
With cars that can drive themselves, AI that can control your whole body and weapons that are integrated into your arm, we get a nervous view of technology that could easily exist within our lifetime. This encapsulates an engaging and superbly-crafted theme of realism and while the story evolves you are naturally pulled into a heart-racing setting that just won't let you go.
What makes Upgrade initially stand out is the way that it doesn't wait up for you - it takes no prisoners with its gruesome camera work and, when you live through your first automatic combat situation with Grey, you are fully immersed in its destructive nature. With its 'dream big' layout backed by a gloomy soundtrack that would feel right at home in a Blade Runner movie, Upgrade is dressed to impressively raise the bar of what you can expect from a low budget production. To put it bluntly, it's a future cult classic.
Pretty much everything you'd like to know about the dedicated team that built Upgrade can be uncovered in the bonus features, which contain interviews with Leigh Whannell, fight choreographer Chris Weir and producer Kylie Du Fresne to name just a few, alongside extensive commentary that’ll give you a different angle.