Suggesting Upgrade is ‘Blade Runner with gore’ goes most of the way to explaining how detailed and astonishing Leigh Whannel’s second picture actually is. Upgrade’s low profile offers a real sense of shock and surprise as its story plays out, and this eases it into becoming a truly forceful and engaging production.
Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is a car mechanic known for working on expensive vehicles, but living in the suburbs means he needs a lift home once he has delivered his latest project. Whilst travelling back with his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) in her self-driving car, the steering starts to malfunction and the vehicle crashes into a group of thugs. The criminals kill Asha and leave Grey paralysed with no hope of moving without aid for the rest of his life.
Upgrade’s incredible camera-work is easily its strongest component, specifically noting the shots used during fight scenes dotted across the run time. The tracking of Grey’s body gives off a particularly immersive and impressive vision of how action scenes can be projected, supplying Grey with a brilliantly robotic feel.
The sleek and futuristic style of the set design offers up a real vision of intent and clarity, without taking away from the story. All too often films of Upgrade’s calibre suffer from the old cliche of ‘style over substance’ but director Whannell has gone a long way to avoid that fate. This does come with an 18 rating and an incredible bombard of detailed and difficult violence, but this out-and-out brutality is matched by Upgrade’s incredibly mature understanding of how violent it actually is.
The story is progressive and original enough to hold attention and its vision is very refreshing. Similar films often give the impression that the limit hasn’t quite been reached, especially contemporaries with a equally low budget, but Upgrade’s impassioned nature supplies endless entertainment and a real feeling of limitless film making.
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