Upgrade is the Best Movie You Haven’t Seen This Year

Upgrade, the newest movie from Blumhouse Productions, most well-known for Get Out and The Purge dropped on Friday. Opening to just $4.4MM, not a lot of people went out to the theater for it. Why? Most people have never heard of it. The film had almost no advertising behind it, and didn’t even, as far as I know, have its trailer play in the previews of other similar movies.

Is Upgrade the best movie of all time? No. But the closest comparison I can make is that it should be this year’s John Wick. Maybe not quite that big, but the similarities are there — it’s an action movie with a world no one’s ever heard of, with a largely unknown cast. It’s a movie you go into with very few expectations and walk out of feeling like you’ve just been let in on a secret, an unknown, special gem that no one else has found yet.

The film is an action movie, billed somewhat inappropriately as an “Action Body Horror” film. Let’s be clear about it — it’s not a horror film at all. Not even in the same was that thrillers like “The Purge” qualify as horror films, and certainly not in the traditional sense. This is a sci-fi action movie through and through.

The premise is that Grey Trace (played by Logan Marshall-Green), is a man who’s rejected technology in a near future, technologically advanced society that feels most similar to Minority Report or Looper. Trying my best not to spoil anything, he and his wife are attacked. His wife is killed and he ends up as a quadriplegic.

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She gets fridged. Sorry, tumblr

Depressed and suicidal over this attack, a bigwig tech CEO offers him the opportunity to interface with his new technology, STEM, which can run his bodily functions on behalf of his brain. This ‘Upgrades’ him (hence the title), and essentially gives him superhuman powers. Armed with this new lease on life, he goes in search of revenge.

Here’s what makes this movie awesome. First, the action scenes are incredible. Second, the movie has not only a very cool revenge Death Wish/Payback kind of a plot, but also a very decent sci-fi mystery story, as Grey tracks down the mastermind behind the attack on his wife that happens at the start of the movie. Third, for an action movie, it’s decently thought provoking with regards not only to AI, but also the dangers of relying on these machines to run our lives, and even to the dangers of VR and escapism. You could almost view this movie like a much more grounded prequel to The Matrix.

from the new movie upgrade Upgrade is the Best Movie You Haven't Seen This Year
The action in this movie is off the rails.

Most of all, though, it’s simply a very well constructed movie from beginning to end. It doesn’t drag. The cinematography is tight and has moments where it really noticeably excels, the plot is decently fresh. There’s not a singular constructive component of the movie that can be nitpicked as poorly done, leaving it to be well-reviewed for what it is holistically as a piece of entertainment.

One of the coolest things about the film is the way that Grey’s relationship with STEM evolves. Two entities occupying the same body, which clearly have different motivations, but share one key aspect: they both need Grey to survive. By the end of the movie, they’re referring to themselves as “us”, which had a very Venom vibe about it, not hampered at all by the fact that Logan Marshall-Green looks a lot like Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy and Logan Marshall Green Upgrade is the Best Movie You Haven't Seen This Year
I’m pretty sure they’re actually clones

Imagine this: Venom set in the Minority Report world with the killer action sequences of John Wick, topped off with just enough of that Matrix style technological prophesying. That’s what Upgrade is in a nutshell.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is that it was made for a mere $5MM. When you see this movie and how well-realized the sci-fi world is, you’ll be asking yourself just what the hell all these other studios are wasting their money on. How did a visual treat like Upgrade cost $5MM and the ill-fated Lone Ranger movie cost $225MM (45 times as much).

Upgrade is highly recommended. With no context, I’d give it a B+, but with context like the extremely low budget and the dearth of non-sequel movies around these days, I have to give it an A-.

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