Upgrade Review: Low-Budget, High Quality (Spoiler Free)

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Upgrade is the latest film from Australian filmmaker Leigh Wannell, best known for his work on the Saw and Insidious franchises.

What is Upgrade about?

Upgrade, a sci-fi action film, revolves around a man named Grey who lives in a not-too-distant future where human augmentation is increasing through society. Grey, however, prefers an analog life.

After a tragic attack leaves him a quadriplegic, he is given a second chance to walk with an experimental microchip embedded in his spine. Grey soon learns that the chip has an A.I persona called Stem that can speak with him and take control of his body with consent.

Grey sets out for revenge, but must also outwit a detective hot on his trail in this cyberpunk action flick.

Betty Gabriel as Detective Cortez and Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace -Blumhouse Productions

The first thing we need to talk about with Upgrade is the physical performance of Logan Marshall Green.

If this was an Oscar category, Logan would have it in the bag. When Stem takes control his actions take on a more robotic combat style whilst his facial expressions of shock and horror in what he is doing really sell each sequence.

Filming on a budget done right.

Whilst the exact budget of Upgrade hasn’t been officially released, estimates range from 5-10 million.

Yet nothing about this film looks cheap.

Instead, the world of Upgrade feels lived in and genuine.

As much as I might love the big-budget summer blockbusters, many of them have a certain disconnect due to the abundance of visual effects.

With Upgrade, this is simply not the case.

This is a wonderfully constructed world. The gritty aesthetic at times feels like it could have easily been set in the same world as Blade Runner – minus the flying cars.

Unfortunately, there are two problems with Upgrade.

upgrade movie
Upgrade. Source: Blumhouse.

Firstly, the supporting cast are somewhat underdeveloped. This is due to the film being almost entirely from Grey’s perspective.

Secondly, the final plot reveal, as good as it may be, might leave you questioning how it impacts on the rest of the plot.

In short, don’t think too hard about the film or it might be like tugging on loose threads in jumpers.

Final thoughts

Upgrade is highly recommended in spite of the issues. It is an engaging and enjoyable sci-fi action flick.

It does feel grounded for the most part and will hopefully become a cult classic in the years to come.

If you enjoyed this Upgrade review (and the movie), check out this article on new Aussie sci-fi ‘The Gateway’.

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