Upgrade (2018) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Sometimes, a movie takes you by surprise and rocks your world. Especially when the movie (and, one has to assume, the movie’s makers) are treading into creative areas similar to the one’s I’ve been mining.

Please, please, PLEASE don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the delightful Upgrade is somehow “ripping off” ideas I’ve used in my novels.

Hell no!

What I’m saying is that there are elements in the movie that I recognize in some of my novels… but that’s all they are, similar elements.

The creative playground out there is quite big and it wouldn’t surprise me if writer/director Leigh Whannell’s been reading/watching/admiring some of the same material I have over his life. In other words: If you’ve read and like my books, I suspect you’ll like this movie and, no, it doesn’t “rip off” my books -at all!- but does play in similar territory.

But enough preamble. Here’s the trailer for Upgrade:

As you can see by the above, Upgrade involves one Gray Trace (Logan Marshall-Green, quite good) who is a mechanic and something of a technophobe living in the near future where computers are everywhere and a creeping dystopia is coming to life. When we meet him, he’s doing the finishing touches on a Trans-Am Firebird, the type many would be familiar as being in the movie Smokey and the Bandit, when his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) arrives from work.

They have some light banter before Gray insists his wife accompany him to deliver the Trans-Am to the man who hired him to refurbish it. Turns out the man is a computer genius who heads a large tech company and whose work his wife is familiar with. The man is sullen and awkward, but offers to show them his latest project, a new computer chip which he states will revolutionize the world.

Upon leaving the reclusive man’s home, Gray and Asha’s self-driving car is hacked and crashed. A group of toughs come to rob them and Asha is shot and killed while Gray is rendered a quadraplegic.

Understandably morose following a painful recovery that has this once independent man a widower and tied to a wheelchair, he is visited by his previous employer, who states the chip he showed him might just be able to get him on his feet again.

And that’s about all the spoiling I’m going to do for this film.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know some of what’s to come, but this very low budget (supposedly around $5 million) film is quite amazing. It’s lean, mean, and doesn’t waste a second of your time while delivering a clever story that is at times familiar (boo!) only to surprise you with some well thought out twists and turns (yay!).

The ending, too, proved a fascinating, well thought out piece of cinema, giving you the proverbial cherry on top of the cake.

While Upgrade doesn’t necessarily revolutionize B movies, it offers plenty of thrills and clever storytelling. Further, despite its ending it also allows for -if the writer/director is interested- sequels which could examine… well… that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

If you haven’t seen it, give Upgrade a whirl. It’s well worth your time.

Post-script: I noted on director/writer Leigh Whannell’s IMDB listing that he’s attached to the Escape From New York remake. A very, very interesting choice. Given how much I liked Upgrade and how that film was set in a pseudo near-future not unlike the original Escape From New York, I can certainly see the reason he was chosen.

Could be good.

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