Film Review – Upgrade (2018)

In the not too distant future technology will control everything and phones will be the size of earbuds. However, technophobe Grey Trace is having none of it preferring a more personal jurisdiction his existence.

After a totally life-changing encounter with some murderous self-driving car hijackers, his world lies in tatters. Devastated by loss and struggling to come to terms with his quadriplegic state he meets the enigmatic Eron Keen. He offers Grey a stem-based lifeline that opens the stop gates for a beefy dose of retribution.

Leigh Whannell’s message from the future feels both like a dystopian warning against over-reliance on gadgets and a hi-tech excuse to smash some faces in. Whilst it is a clear distillation of various sci-fi influences Upgrade does not feel that derivative. With classy cityscapes, lush visuals and kinetic camera work it manages to fabricate a believable universe without overreaching in terms of ideas and budget.

Upgrade serves up a decent amount of heart along with its explosive violence. Thanks to sensitive performances and an erudite script it manages to be both emotionally affecting and thematically intriguing. Managing to cram stem cell research, perceptions of disability and the moral limitations of autonomy into the gaps between bouts of mega-violence is impressive.

When Upgrade does get off the leash it heads straight for the jugular with some of the most succulent sci-fi action movies screen deaths since John Hyam’s brutalist Universal Soldier entry.

The most pivotal character interaction should remain a mystery, stay away from trailers before watching the film because the reveal is a hilarious WTF moment.

Pockets of wry dark humour oil the narrative cogs allowing the film to surge forward at a pleasingly brisk pace making the journey to the expected conclusion an entertaining one.

This Midnight movie punches above its weight on many fronts and is destined to win fans over a cross-section of various genres.


Sci-fi, Action | Australia, 2018 | 15 | 18th November 2019 (UK) | Blu-Ray Limited Edition| Second Sight Films | Dir.Leigh Whannell | Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Steve Danielsen, Benedict Hardie, Betty Gabriel

Originally posted as part of 2018 Arrow Video FrightFest Coverage. Original post here.