Cult classic movies come in different shapes and sizes from Rocky Horror Picture Show in the 70’s to John Wick just 4 years ago. Both movies are characterized by being extremely unique, which is what endears them so much to audiences everywhere. Upgrade carries on this tradition of truly unique indie films and is on a crash course with cult fandom.
Leigh Whannell’s second film showcases a unique voice and an interesting take on the progression of technology. Upgrade is set in the future, but the story never feels too far away. The technology shown in the film is similar to what we see in our own lives, and that adds an unmistakable element of reality to a movie that is ultimately very sci-fi. Grey Trace is an analog man trapped in a very computer integrated society where the cars drive themselves and people live for days in a virtual universe. Unfortunately for Trace, he is the victim of a mugging that leaves him completely dependent on the same technology that he finds hard to trust.
Logan Marshall-Green, seen in Prometheus and briefly in Spiderman Homecoming, brings Grey Trace to life as he fights for revenge against the criminals who took away his life with the help of an advanced computer chip affectionately called STEM. For a completely artificial entity, STEM is shockingly human with his own set of mannerisms and ticks. Simon Maiden gives STEM his voice and holds his own as a source of comedy relief and truly amazing action as he helps Grey on his movie long revenge tour. For brief moments, STEM even takes Trace’s body completely over for breathtaking action sequences sprinkled with the humor of an AI that is still learning the ways of the world.
Instead of opting for green screens and heavy CGI effects, Whannell used practical effects reminiscent of classic 80’s films like Robocop or The Terminator. Whannell’s ability to deliver a stunning action film with almost no CGI is a refreshing take on movies in an era where every new blockbuster seems to just add more digital effects for the sake of having digital effects. The practical effects to the realness of the film and complement the John Wick caliber stunts leaving the audience yearning for a generation of movies that was thought to be long gone.
Upgrade blends breathtaking action with feasible sci-fi and genuine humor to produce a great alternative to the usual blockbusters. In many ways, this movie is a great introduction to Leigh Whannell’s storytelling ability and it’s good way to spend a Saturday at the movies.