4) Upgrade: Boy That Escalated Quickly
Seamlessly weaving together aspects of slapstick comedy and startling ultra-violence, the first fight in Upgrade is a riotous blast that takes you by surprise. Up until this point, the film had been a relatively subdued sci-fi . thriller, less preoccupied with action and more so with world building, atmosphere and mystery. This measured pacing is abruptly jettisoned however, when Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) tracks down the first person on his hit-list and elects to confront them, even though he has no training or combat prowess whatsoever.
Suffice it to say, our hero is inevitably pulverized. That is until he decides to play the hidden ace up his sleeve, an experimental implant known as STEM. Inserted into his spine, this AI chip bestows Grey with enhanced dexterity, heightened agility, and superior reflexes. In order to make optimal use of the tool, Grey must relinquish control of his motor functions, at which point he goes into autopilot and the system takes over.
Once he does this, his body is evolved into a perfect killing machine, capable of performing the most audacious feats. From this juncture onwards, the dynamic of the fight is radically flipped, as Grey demolishes his opponent with frightening ease. Meanwhile, all he can do is watch on in astonishment, like he’s been possessed by the spirit of Bruce Lee.
Not only is this impressive to behold, but it’s also strangely funny, because the Chip is unable to influence anything above Grey’s neck, and so has to manually move his head out of the way to dodge incoming blows. This makes for a unique visual, reminiscent of something from a vaudeville performance, or even a Looney Tunes cartoon. Likewise, it’s also amusing to see the squeamish hero forced into the role of a bemused observer, powerless to stop himself from committing gut-wrenching violence.
On a purely conceptual level it’s a great idea, but what really sells it is Marshall-Green’s stellar physical work, as he demonstrates hitherto undiscovered comedic chops. After all, he’s required to do something quite tricky here. He has to instinctively hit all of the complicated action beats, so that it looks like his body is doing everything automatically, whilst his face looks around elsewhere. It must have been very hard to pull off, akin to one of those ‘’rub your belly and pat your head’’ exercises, but the actor 100% nails it.
3) Mission: Impossible- Fallout: Take Your Pick
By now, the Mission: Impossible series has all-but cemented its status as cinema’s chief purveyor of outrageous, daredevil stunts. To maintain this reputation, each successive film in the franchise aims to top its predecessor. Things properly got cooking with Ghost Protocol, which saw Tom Cruise scale the exterior of the Burj Khalifa (i.e. The Tallest building in the world). Then came Rogue Nation which, among other things, had the star cling to the side of a soaring aircraft and later engage in a speedy motorcycle pursuit.
This year we got Mission: Impossible- Fallout, where the production team, not wanting to rest on their laurels, squeezed in dozens of opportunities for their lead to nearly kill himself. Indeed, over the course of the 2 ½ hour runtime, Cruise: makes a spectacular HALO jump; engages in some light parkour; and flies a helicopter dangerously close to a mountainside. At this rate, he’s going to have to box a Kodiak Bear or tap dance on the side of a rocket ship if he wants to keep up the momentum.
The thing is though, if the series continues to offer such high quality, adrenaline pumping visuals, then Cruise can go nuts for all I care. Because the latest instalment provides constant entertainment and has zero lulls. Identifying a highlight is thus quite difficult and everyone will have their own favourite moment.
For me, it has to be the euphoric Paris chase, which keeps on escalating every time you think it must surely have peaked. Starting off as a simple car chase, it evolves continuously, chucking in new elements, new threats and new stunts. By the time the high-velocity shenanigans are over, you’ll feel weirdly out-of-breath, as if you’ve been participating in the madness yourself. It’s that exciting!
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