Upgrade (2018) – Not Man, Not Machine

Leigh Wannell’s “Upgrade,” a great B movie with a simple premise. Other than that, it offers something interesting compared to B movies in general. Especially for them which they trying to be over-the-top, the way of executing this film is so unique both cinematography and choreography. Not separated from science fiction, this film is dystopian-like but not too close to “Blade Runner 2049” which means I’m not too smart to say that. With its “Black Mirror” kind alike vibe, a film like this has almost become a filthy fruit from the aspect of our lives. This modern life then began to be invaded, not by aliens, by technology and artificial intelligence. Just say that smart body like a smartphone, computer, or else. But what else, “Upgrade” is close to paranoid-android exploitation.

It’s no man, no machine. It’s Logan Marshall-Green as Gray Trace. He was an old car mechanic though. Shorty, the world has used the driverless car driven by artificial intelligence. Including Melanie Vallejo as his wife, there is a world of its own for them. Despite his life, it’s possible that everyone in this film, much hung by technology, is compromising. One day when he was with his wife, the car they were driving in was malfunctioning. While making out, they don’t know if they have an accident. A group of thugs took advantage of the moment. When his wife was killed, Gray must live forever in bed. All parts of his body, except his brain, were severely paralyzed. Now, he is the most depressed man he has ever seen.

Enter Harrison Gilbertson as Eron Keen, a suspicious business scientist. With her pale shiny hair, she seems sly (and suspicious). But later, he offered Gray a new creation. A chip called Stem will support Gray’s life so that he can walk again. Eron promises this for Gray. It will cure the paralysis too. By installing an implant on his neck, of course, that is in accordance with expectations. However, there are some rules where Gray can’t fight it. Because the creation has not been tested, it must be kept secret.

There was a voice in Gray’s head. Feeling surprised and scared, we know that voice is Stem. He is artificial intelligence like HAL 9000 but is more low-key. The voice actor, Simon Maiden, more precisely uses a distinctive voice with the character from the Stanley Kubrick universe. Anyway, Stem works by increasing physical and cognitive abilities for Gray. In addition, he also provides martial arts skills. Gray initially used the Stem to take revenge. Until then, Gray suspected him. This is what makes Gray then face moral problems or being in complete control.

The plot is very standard and sounds cliche, in my opinion, not something new. This film mixes horror, science fiction, and quite a comedy spice. It’s dystopian but the universe is still not too high-tech. More precisely, this film impressed the style of classic paranoia grindhouse and the negative effect of technology. I prefer to summarize this film by a cliche plot yet interesting execution. This film is no longer a warning, on the other hand, a technological threat. Just like “Robocop” or other films. The two films are in the form of a universe of effective and inventive sequences.

Probably, you gonna love this movie because everyone loves blood. As with this film, the comedy impressions then combined with blood. The face constraints expression of Marshall-Green is so neat and genuine. Trying to apologize to his opponent for being taken control of by Stem, I thought who would not be amazed by that first action scene. That’s choreography? Cinematography? Both of them are incredibly unique. Whannell for a long time has been collaborating with James Wan in the “Saw” franchise. Then, this is what made him directed an original film. Be “Upgrade” is the original. There is no gimmicky cinematography, everything looks smooth. Almost using a steady cam that follows Logan’s movement pattern when it comes to the action scene. In fact, it’s not just the action scene.

“Upgrade” seems too good then it’s own low-budget. Special effects that are so convincing but some are lacking. For an interesting concept, this film only tells Gray’s point of view. Besides Gray, other characters are just one-dimensional. We don’t really care. On the other hand, actors are supportive but that’s all. “Upgrade” is not a smart-like movie but it’s a unique experience spectacle. The combination of action, comedy, horror, and sci-fi is like a new generation of grindhouse’s vibe. A twist that is so ironic but the conclusion doesn’t really matter with the concept itself. Just see that part when Gray fights those people. You’ll be freaking love that.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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