Upgrade (2018) is all about having a Hal 9000 as your “best” buddy.
Upgrade (2018) Synopsis
In the near future, car mechanic Grey Trace not only loses his wife during a hold-up, he is also paralyzed. While languishing as a quadriplegic, his wealthy ex-client Eron Keen approaches him with an outrageous offer; that of implanting an A.I. chip known as STEM into Grey’s spine to enable him to walk again. As successful as the operation subsequently is, Grey wakes up to find himself the reluctant partner to an outrageous entity. He soon finds STEM has far more than helpful companionship in mind too.
Upgrade was rather under-the-radar in Singapore back in 2018. Actually, I don’t remember seeing any posters or trailers for it. My guess is that it’s only dug out because of the current lack of new films to screen.
For that reason, I headed into the cinema last evening with no expectations whatsoever. Before an hour was through, though, I was deeply mesmerised.
Where to begin to describe why I loved the show so much? Hmm, the Black Mirror feel, or formula, is definitely one reason. On that, I think Leigh Whannell’s story is additionally praiseworthy for incorporating mentions of universal surveillance, and how that is unlikely to drastically reduce crime.
There’s also … oh what am I writing? Of course STEM the A.I. is a major part of the seduction. Symbiotic existence the likes of Venom have long been fertile ground for humour and satire, and here we have an entity that is as deadly as it is polite, and as scheming as it is capable.
An obvious homage to Hal 9000, as in STEM even sounds like Hal, one can’t help but feels wicked joy too when the “A.I. assisted” moves kick in, these all being a flurry of Matrix-worthy moves. Nor can one resists wondering whether the entity is secretly smirking in derision, whenever protagonist Grey Trace is forced to rely on the A.I.’s gorier (but much more efficient) solutions to matters.
This was truly, truly a fun watch. Even if high-brow technological themes were forgotten in the final leg.
I add that there’s a pretty neat plot too. Somewhat predictable towards the end, and very grim, but still the enjoyable heart of a well-baked pudding.