UPGRADE (2018)

  • Release Date: 1/6/2018
  • Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Benedict Hardie, Richard Anastasios, Rosco Campbell
  • Director: Leigh Whannell

Set in the near future, Upgrade tells the story of Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a self-proclaimed technophobe in a world controlled almost fully by technology. Grey soon lands up in a situation that takes everything away from him and lands him in a state of Quadriplegia. A man who for so long did everything with his own hands now has to rely on an experimental chip known only as the “STEM” to not only get him back on his feet but also help him track down his oppressors.

I was blown away by Upgrade. Unlike Hardcore Henry—- a film that resembles this film in many ways —-which I couldn’t even complete, Upgrade sucked me into its narrative from the word go. It isn’t the big budget-dumb-summer blockbuster kind. On the contrary, you will have to wait a good 30 minutes before the first action set piece makes its way to the screen. None of the fights are elaborate or heavily mounted. However, they are choreographed in such a fashion and unfold in such a manner that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them.

The action here always unfolds as a result of a chain of events and is always justified. Add to that the fact that the man unleashing hell doesn’t even have the stomach for it and at many junctures even looks away from what his hands and feet are doing and you have a teleplay that you don’t see every now and then. I loved the first fight —-which is, by the way, ruined by the trailers—-as it sets the mood and tone for all the rest that follows. Some of the antagonists are laced with some seriously innovating appendages that are bound to raise a few eyebrows. It isn’t easy bringing realism to a film that is so much out of the line. Yet Leigh Whannell successfully infuses his film with not only believability, but also a sense of drama and edge of the seat thrills.

Logan Marshall-Green, the lead professor from Prometheus is able to bring a strange conflicted charm to a character that doesn’t actually want to do what he is doing but still is inclined to do it. He is partly persuaded by his own desire to find and punish those who destroyed his life and at the same time is pushed over new boundaries every time by a resilient STEM. The first time that he kills, he is crestfallen and pukes instantaneously. That same man by the end of the film becomes instrumental in many deaths. The arc that Green’s character completes through the film is wonderfully envisioned and even better executed by Greene.

The primary antagonist of the film is Fisk (Benedict Hardie), a deadly assassin with some interesting upgrades added to his kitty. He is also a man with a mustache. As the saying goes, one must never take a man with mustache lightly. He is a serious operator and has to be taken seriously for the evil that he is capable of doing. Benedict Hardie brings an unnerving sense of evil to the character and makes it scary and threatening even to a character like Grey who has nearly superhuman abilities.

Upgrade is special for many reasons and the biggest of them all is the fact that it is guided by human emotions. This is a science fiction film that has a very basic human emotion at its core. Retribution. The Sci-Fi element that assumes importance towards the end is also guided by a very primitive human trait. The desire to possess. Thus the film gives you ample reasons to connect with it even though it is outrageous in its treatment, characters, and action. Never for a second will you feel a disconnect as you actually take the side of the protagonist, want to see him get his revenge, are repelled by his expressions when he is repelled by the actions of STEM and finally in the climactic sequence we want him to get the better of himself in an extreme case of moral conflict.

The director gets a lot right and among them, he gets the movements and transformation of Green’s character between the state when he is on his own and when he is being motored by STEM spot on. This had to go down well to get the kind of impact that this film gets in some of the key situations. Add to that some superb cinematography that toggles between the dream and the hand-held-realistic seamlessly and you have a film that is already interesting enough to merit a view or two. I loved the editing of the film too. There are so many sequences where nothing is shown but by the manner in which the scene is shot and cut, it has the kind of impact that it was gunning for.

Upgrade is a fresh take on a sci-fi subject that has been touched before. What makes this film special are its realistic characters, engrossing action, terrific execution and the fact that it is laced with some intriguing and affecting essays. For the fans of action, thriller and Sci-Fi genres, this is a must watch. For all others, you may still give it a try. Who knows this might just end up being that guilty pleasure film that we all cherish and watch over and over again.

Rating  : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

 

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