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Upgrade movie

This one snuck up under the radar for me, and was a real pleasant surprise. Upgrade is a Blumhouse Productions film made by some of the same people who make Insidious, The Purge, and Saw, so the previews didn't really sell me on the idea of a clever sci-fi thriller. I was expecting more of just a gore-fest. There's some really over-the-top violence and gore, but the movie is paced well enough that every single graphic kill feels legitimately earned. The choreography is exceptional and creative, and might have been worth the ticket price alone, even if it weren't attached to such a well-made movie.

Where Upgrade surprised me, however, is the way that it is filled with small world-building details that really help to sell this idea of slightly-dystopian near-futurism, and the almost luddite level aversion that some people might have to the inevitable automation of our lives. It does this by being a small, simple story that has a sinister undertone, but which doesn't feel like it's trying to be too grandiose or overblown. This is basically a hard-R-rated feature-length episode of Black Mirror.

Upgrade has some very slick choreography, and some gruesome (but well-earned) violence.

The twist was, admittedly, very easy to see coming after about 10 minutes into the movie, and so the build-up to it makes the bulk of the movie feel kind of predictable. However, there was a second twist that did catch me off-guard. I'm not sure if the movie really builds up to that second twist properly, but maybe that's just me.

I did have a couple technical nitpicks with the film.

For one, the actual STEM chip looked so much like a fairly standard micro-controller, that I had trouble accepting that it has enough on-board memory and processing power to run such a sophisticated A.I., let alone having the on-board wireless networking capabilities that allowed it to connect remotely to other devices and to use the cloud. STEM is taken off the network at one point in the movie, so it is clearly fully functional without the cloud support, so all of its programming and memory has be stored on-board. I guess, hypothetically, it could be installing itself and storing data in Grey's brain or nervous system? I'm willing to suspend disbelief for this one.

I had some minor issues with the feasibility of the tech and biomechanics.

My second technical issue is with the biomechanics of the film. Put simply, Grey should not have the muscle strength to allow for the abilities that he executes. After months of being an invalid, Grey's muscles would have thoroughly atrophied. However, once STEM is implanted in him, he pretty much immediately has superhuman strength, speed, and agility, and it seems like he's going on his revenge quest the following day. This problem could have been easily rectified with a more clear montage segment of physical therapy and the passage of at least a few weeks.

Neither of these issues are deal-breakers.

The predictable plot means that Upgrade doesn't work very well as a thriller. If you can't stand graphic violence or gratuitous gore, then you should definitely stay away as well. If you're willing to approach it more like a martial arts revenge flick with a sci-fi bent, then it will probably be very satisfying.

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