May 31, 2020

23° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?


Advertise With Us

Cyberpunk, action-horror get Upgrade

Universal Pictures</p><p>Cortez (left, played by Betty Gabriel) and Grey Trace (played by Logan Marshall-Green) are two of the characters navigating a twisted world of advanced tech in Leigh Whannell's Upgrade.</p>

Universal Pictures

Cortez (left, played by Betty Gabriel) and Grey Trace (played by Logan Marshall-Green) are two of the characters navigating a twisted world of advanced tech in Leigh Whannell's Upgrade.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/6/2018 (702 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Leigh Whannell, actor, filmmaker and half of the team behind torture-porn classic Saw, branches into techno-futuristic action-horror with the brutally deft Upgrade, starring Logan Marshall-Green. Take some Robocop, fold in John Wick, sprinkle on a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey and season generously with fake blood, a wink and a nudge, and you get Upgrade, which imagines a not-so-distant future in which wearable tech has become a body-horror nightmare.

Our hero, Grey, is your average analog grease monkey, listening to soul music and tinkering with his muscle cars, while his wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo) prefers the luxuries of sleek self-driving vehicles and smart homes, which give her that much more time to work at her tech company. One night, driving home from dropping off a vintage car to tech prodigy Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), the technological utopia proves fallible — and fatal. The couple’s self-driving car rams into a homeless encampment and Grey and Asha are held up and left for dead by a crew of uncommonly weaponized bandits. Grey survives, a quadriplegic, while Asha does not.

The mysterious Eron makes Grey an offer he can’t refuse. With a team of private doctors, Eron conducts a secret, unregulated surgery, implanting a tiny, roach-like widget, STEM, into Grey’s spine. STEM becomes the link between Grey’s brain and his malfunctioning body, allowing him to walk. And STEM, as Grey discovers, can talk. He’s the robotic voice in Grey’s head, the HAL inside of him, controlling his body. STEM becomes his partner in crime-solving, and his physical strength as they go after Asha’s killers, uncovering deeper and deeper conspiracies.

What makes Upgrade work are the tangible realities and fears it plays on. We all wear Fitbits. How long until criminals are getting functional guns implanted in their forearms? Alexa, Siri and their counterparts can be helpful, but how much presence should they have in our lives? Personal decisions? What if she turns on us?

Another crucial element is Marshall-Green’s performance. As pre-STEM Grey, he’s brooding and moody, an anti-tech crank. Printing pizzas? He’d rather make them. But desperate, grieving and newly jazzed up with his powers of STEM, he’s both in awe and bewildered. He begs STEM to show mercy to his victims as he bludgeons them, his hands out of his control, but he also gloats "you didn’t know I was a ninja" to the thugs he corners in scuzzy dive bar bathrooms.

His physical performance is what communicates the relationship between man and machine. He’s awkwardly upright and stiff, he doesn’t move in a way that’s "human," because what’s moving him isn’t. Whannell plays with film speed and uses incredibly innovative camerawork to underline the unreality of Grey’s artificially enhanced movement. At times, the camera seems rigged to his body, as we lurch along with him, and other times it pulls back to let us take in all of his whirling destruction.

Upgrade is a brutish, efficient and well-executed slice of cyberpunk action-horror with a silly streak. It tempers gratuitous and gory violence with a few laughs, drawing us in, then skewering our obsession with technology of the self. With present-day headlines about out-of-control self-driving cars and smart speakers acting autonomously, Upgrade couldn’t feel more timely. All the gadgets and gear just might strip us of our own autonomy.

— Tribune News Service


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us