Upgrade is a 2018 film which had a DVD-only released in January of this year, with the Blu-ray coming some time later, and as a Limited Edition with a stack of extras, and that is how I’m watching the film for the first time.
We’re in a world where in-home technology is as advanced as I wish it was now. The house talks to you as you enter, and all tables are interactive touchscreens. Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green – Prometheus, Spider-Man Homecoming) has a best friend, Eron Keen, who’s an Elon Musk-style bloke, developing new techonologies and has built a chip which acts as a ‘better brain’ and can apparently do anything.
However, all this tech doesn’t stop a futuristic self-driving car from going mad, and Grey manages to secure his wife’s – Asha (Melanie Vallejo) – seatbelt before the car flips over. This leads to an encounter with some real bad dudes which leaves her brown bread, and him alive, but somewhat incapacitated.
As the Beatles sang, they get by with a little help from his friends, and thanks to Eron, Grey’s had an ‘upgrade’ or three. You could say: they have rebuilt him… they have the technology. And it’s called STEM, and as he also talks to Grey, the machine sounds rather like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I expect was deliberate in paying homage.
There’s some great points about Upgrade:
- 1. It’s great to see STEM take over when he has a fight, the first one happening almost 40 minutes in, and I applaud the use of practical gory effects. In fact, at other times, he can allow STEM to take over, making it feel rather like Tom Hardy’s recent Venom, and this movie’s lead also rather looks a bit like Tom Hardy. And this movie only cost $5m to make, compared to Venom‘s $100m!
- 2. I like the dialogue, such as at one point, Grey (portrayed by an actor, of course) says: “Why someone would choose to live in a fake world, I’ll never understand”.
And later, there’s an individual known as Jamie who’s very woke with the comment, “That’s not my name. And please don’t ask my gender.”
- 3. It has a superb ending, too, and one which I thought could leave the door open for a sequel.
However, despite all the tech, neither Grey, nor the police, seem to have developed the ability to light a room properly…
Still, come for the technology, but don’t stay expecting original plot elements within a revenge movie when it comes to working out who’s behind it all… or so I thought until it revealed its hand.
For a new movie, you’d expect a top-notch picture and that’s what you get, while the superb score has a Tangerine Dream feel to it.
The extras are mostly interviews, and are as follows:
- Not Action. Not Sci-fi. More. (29:46): An interview with writer/director Leigh Whannell, as he talks about how he came up with the idea, in this 30-min piece, he also takes in how Blumhouse has given him the chance to have total creative freedom thanks to the fact it can be made on a low-budget.
- Permission Granted (14:16): Now, it’s the turn of producer Kylie Du Fresne, who talks about working with the other key crew members to bring the film to the screen with the script and the vision intact – including with the fighting techniques, and all on budget.
- Future Noir (14:13): Cinematographer Stefan Duscio talks about bringing the style to the screen, abandoning realism in favour of cool lighting, and in turning Melbourne into a futuristic Chicago.
- Hacking Upgrade (8:35): Editor Andy Canny talks about not wanting to remove any scenes whilst retaining the pacing of the movie, as well as the initial fight I referred to in the review. I’m glad he also says there are no plans for a longer version. This film runs for 100 minutes. I wish almost all films ran that length, since so many go way over two hours when they have no reason to.
- The Art of Fighting Without Fighting (8:05): with fight choreographer Chris Weir, who took up martial arts from a young age. There are some great fights in this, with that initial one being up for an award for Best Fight In A Movie (and somehow losing out to the godawful Ant Man And The Wasp), and so I do hope wwe get a sequel.
- Audio commentary: from writer/director Leigh Whannell.
I just received the review disc to check out the film and extras – and so that’s all I can include in my Extras score, but when you buy the boxset, it includes a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Adam Stothard, a poster featuring the net artwork, and a 40-page soft cover book with new essays by John Towlson and Scott Harrison.
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Second Sight
Released: November 18th 2019
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA
Subtitles: English SDH
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K), Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Leigh Whannell
Producers: Rosemary Blight, Jason Blum, Kylie Du Fresne, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
Music: Jed Palmer
Grey Trace: Logan Marshall-Green
Asha Trace: Melanie Vallejo
Jeff Handley: Steve Danielsen
Kara (voice): Abby Craden
Eron Keen: Harrison Gilbertson
Fisk: Benedict Hardie
Serk: Richard Cawthorne
Tolan: Christopher Kirby
Wen: Richard Anastasios
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.