UPGRADE, Film Review

Original Screenplay by Leigh Whannel

A Film Review without spoilers

This film is rated R. It’s a brilliantly told story, a must see for the scifi fan.

Watching UPGRADE will make you reticent about using driverless cars and all digital modes of communications. The film takes place sometime in the future, but not too far into the future. Tech has evolved. Driverless cars operate on the road alongside the old fashioned kind. The main character, Grey, is a mechanic and a technophobe, who works on non-driverless cars. His wife, Asha, works in tech and owns a driverless car.

While riding in that car together, the computer goes haywire and crashes them in a slum. Gangsters descend on them. Both Grey and his wife are shot. Asha dies. Grey is left with a severed spine and faces the prospect of living the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. A high-tech guru offers him the chance to walk again through the use of an experimental chip called stem that will reconnect Grey’s brain to his spinal cord. As Grey contemplates the offer, an offer made in a dark room of the guru’s isolated mansion, for which he needs to sign a confidentiality agreement, the guru asks him: What would Asha want?  Grey agrees to receive the stem chip. The audience knows this is a Faustian bargain.

UPGRADE is a film that will not have the mega-media behind it, but it is worth seeing. It was made for good reason and ought to be celebrated, especially by the scifi community. Here are five reasons why you ought to watch this film (especially if you are a hardcore scifi fan and over the age of 16…the rating is for real…brutal violence in this one).

  1. UPGRADE is a perfectly crafted script. Leigh Whannel writes and directs with stunning precision. From the beginning (a drop of human blood falling into the engine of a car…flesh mingling with the machine) to the end (the shedding of blood and establishment of a hierarchy in regard to human versus machine), every image, every word spoken by the characters…each scene is packed with meaning. The writing is deliberative and tight, everything a film or a well-told story ought to be.
  2. The main character and the peripheral characters all make sense in the world created by Whannel. All of them behave like real humans (or like human-machine hybrids) in the way one might expect. I give extra love in my reviews for this one. I want to see characters on the screen who make sense.
  3. Tension and action are delivered in full. If you’re a bit squeamish about violence, like I am, you might need to keep your eyes shut here and there. However, I was delighted by the car chases, the detective narrative and the ratcheting up of tension as the main character grapples with his relationship with the stem chip.
  4. The plot twists are well-earned and not predictable. You may feel like you understand what you’re seeing and where the story is going, but there are surprises you likely won’t anticipate.
  5. The climax sends the viewer into contemplation and hopefully discussion (For this reason, I advise trying to watch this film with a friend). All great films lead their audiences to think and question. UPGRADE, like the best scifi, raises questions about morality, ethics in regard to AI and other worthwhile topics, like, where-the-hell-is-our-tech-society-headed?

If you need a little more motivation to spend that 10 to 12 dollars, here is the trailer.

To buy the dvd of this film, click here.