Machines strike again! Or artificial intelligence in the case of the movie "Upgrade", an Australian sci-fi action thriller that, despite its somewhat derivative subject, manages to amaze critics and audiences alike.
Starring Logan Marshall-Green, the cyberpunk film is set in the near future. Fully recognizable but also worryingly addicted to technology which has entered almost all aspects of our everyday lives. This is not a far throw from the today’s point of view and maybe this is the reason the film is both entertaining and disturbing at the same time. No matter how convenient and safe self-driving cars might be, letting AI control it, as well as our homes, is a nightmare for a regular control freak.
Marshall-Green's character, Grey Trace, is an old-timey mechanic fixing vintage muscle cars for rich people to buy. One of those people is Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson), a young tech genius and a recluse working on the next big thing that will change everything. While Grey might not be a control freak he is opposed to this kind of technology, not really being comfortable letting meals to be printed and not being able to have your hands on the wheel while driving. After dropping off the newest refurbished car to Keen, Grey and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) end up in a car accident when the car’s system stops responding to their commands. That is definitely one of the most disturbing scenes in the film, feeling utterly hopeless without a plug to cut the power. Without giving away too many spoilers, the accident leaves Grey widowed and quadriplegic. That’s a cue for the aforementioned tech genius Keen who offers Grey a chance to walk once again using the experimental computer chip implant STEM. Reluctantly Grey accepts to be a guinea pig but there's a tiny bit Keen omitted before the operation. STEM is an AI with a mind of its own and it actually talks (only heard inside of Grey’s head and STEM only can hear him when Grey talks aloud, so there's no supernatural mind reading – just science). The real action begins when STEM notices a clue everybody missed on the surveillance video of his wife’s murder and Grey becomes hellbent on revenge. But on the road to revenge he might once again lose control over his body, this time to STEM.
The cinematography is one of the strong points of this endeavour which can look so amazingly effortless combined with the action shots and fight scenes like you've probably never seen before. Well-crafted narrative accompanied with a little bit of dark humour (which can go a long way) makes us question the morality of some choices while also satirical close to the point of how we interact with technology right now. This makes it all a bit too believable.

"Upgrade" might be reminiscent of Robocop and even Blade Runner but manages to keep it original, nevertheless. The conclusion is that sci-fi fans will enjoy Upgrade, at time gore-ish but also a lot of fun for an adrenaline-filled action movie night. Check out more new releases on Cinema Paradiso!

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