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Upgrade Review [2018]: An Alarming Glimpse of the Near-Future

Packing no shortage of action, violence & gore, Leigh Whannell's sophomore directorial effort is a science-fiction body horror that provides a glimpse of the near-future that's equally fascinating & terrifying. And even though the film is marred by several issues, Whannell's old-school treatment gives it a slight edge over other similar but readily forgotten titles.

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A biting critique of our increasing dependency on technology & automation and how the absence of human intervention isn’t just dangerous but can also be deadly, Upgrade features an interesting premise that shows the future of our tech-obsessed lifestyle as both fascinating & terrifying and is a well-crafted sci-fi horror.

Set in the near-future where technology controls nearly all aspects of life, the story follows a man whose life is turned upside down after an unexpected tragedy leaves him a quadriplegic. Approached by a billionaire inventor who offers him a cure, he volunteers for the experimental surgery and discovers his physical abilities growing beyond his wildest imaginations.

Directed by Leigh Whannell (best known as the writer of Saw & Insidious), Upgrade is his sophomore directorial effort after Insidious: Chapter 3 and paints an alarming portrait of the future. The plot outline is a familiar one, it packs all the genre clichés and also happens to be predictable but it nonetheless makes up for an entertaining ride with no shortage of action, violence & gore.

If it wasn’t already obvious that the story takes place in a futuristic setting, Whannell & his production design team go overboard in filling every available space with advanced robotics. Its moments of action benefit from snappy camerawork but they also have this comedic vibe to it that only ends up dissipating the tension & seriousness of the given scenes. Still, the blood & gore effect manage to salvage enough out of it.

Despite its thought-provoking concept, the film downgrades itself to a generic entry due to its terrible dialogues, poor characterization & formulaic narration. Everything that happens in the film, none of it is surprising because it’s stuff we all have seen before, and its lazy, uninspired writing is further exposed during interplay between characters. As for the performances, Logan Marshall-Green delivers a fab input and is able to steer the story past the finish line on his own.

On an overall scale, Upgrade has its share of positives & negatives but it’s definitely watchable and at times even fun. The film’s shortcomings may be too glaring but the old-school treatment from Whannell gives it a little edge over other similar titles that are more readily forgotten. Having all the hallmarks of a terrific Black Mirror episode when trimmed down & further refined, Upgrade may not rank amongst the finest offerings of its genre(s) but it’s certainly not a bad choice for a weekend night movie. Go for it.



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