I can’t stop thinking about Upgrade. It is embedded into my mind like STEM is embedded into Upgrade’s protagonist. STEM allows a man, (who I call Tom Hardy-ish) who was paralyzed in an attack from a high-tech gang that killed his wife, to walk again. It soon becomes sentient and helps Tom Hardy-ish find his wife’s killers and kick ass. It takes a great concept, (Venom meets Ex Machina) and explores every interesting idea that could be found from it and executes them with a level of creativity and bad-assery that is unparalleled. But not only does it explore the main concept in full, director Leigh Whannell throws as many ideas of what this future could bring as he could think of at the screen in a way that doesn’t feel packed or over-bearing. From the inner workings of the police, to the frighteningly realistic depiction of the dangers of self-driving cars, there is a lot to unpack in this movie.
The most bonkers thing about all of that is Upgade’s budget. This dark and fascinating vision of the future is created using only 3-5 million dollars. For comparison, Minority Report (a very similar movie when it comes to visuals and tone) had a 102 million dollar budget. That is bonkers! The main reason the film cost as little as it did was because of Logan Marshall-Green’s unbelievable performance as the lead. He trained with Cirque Du Soleil for the amazing action sequences instead of using CGI, which gives them a grounded and gritty feel that couldn’t be achieved with CGI.
But the kitchen scene in this movie isn’t one of my favorite action sequences of all time exclusively because of his performance. The banging soundtrack and amazing camera work are stellar throughout as well. The contrast of the handheld look of the majority of the movie with the silky smooth movement of the camera when STEM takes over is a really powerful visual choice. The story isn’t lacking either, with well-written characters throughout, and a twist that will knock your socks off. It does fall into some cliches, but it uses them so well that it’s hard to complain.
Upgrade reminded me why I love movies. It is a movie with a purpose. The director had a story to tell and cool ideas to show off, and he didn’t need 100 million big ones to pull it off. It really is refreshing to see a standalone movie that shows all of it’s best cards upfront. Movies often feel like the creators are saving ideas for a potential sequel. Upgrade has a full house, and it wants you to read it and weep with joy.