Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Luke Scott
Stars: Kate Mara, Rose Leslie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti, Michelle Yeoh, Boyd Holbrook, Vinette Robinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Cox, Chris Sullivan, Michael Yare.
Morgan: A Suitable Case For Termination?
In a remote laboratory, a team of scientists have artificially created a young girl who has highly developed mental faculties. Morgan (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) has largely been raised in isolation and has little outside stimulation to shape her understanding of the world. She is confined to a glass walled cell and is being observed and studied by a team of scientists. But when she stabs one of her carers and blinds her, it seems as though the experiment has gone off the rails.
The corporation funding the project sends in Lee Weathers (Kate Mara, from The Martian, etc), a risk management expert, to determine assess its viability and decide if it and Morgan should be terminated. A psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti) is also brought in to assess Morgan’s emotional responses, but when she attacks him Weathers is determined to shut the project down. The scientists though are more protective of Morgan, whom they treat like family, and resist Weathers’ attempts to shut it down. Amy (Rose Leslie) is a doctor who has developed a maternal relationship and level of trust with Morgan and has tried to instill in her some human qualities and she fights to save her.
Morgan is a low budget sci-fi tale about artificial intelligence and creating synthetic life forms, a theme familiar to films like A.I. and I, Robot, etc. It raises questions about man tampering with the natural order, science, genetics, and what it means to be human. It explores a theme as old as Frankenstein, as well as some more cutting edge scientific concepts. With its low rent aesthetic, claustrophobic spaces and small cast though, the film most audiences will immediately think about upon seeing Morgan will be Alex Garland’s chilling and intelligent, and superior, dsytopian tale Ex-Machina.
This is the debut feature film from Luke Scott, the younger son of acclaimed filmmaker Ridley Scott. He virtually grew up on film sets, and has worked as assistant second unit director on Exodus: Gods And Kings. Scott senior is on board as a producer and his influence on the material is obvious as Morgan explores some similar themes and ideas and references some of his works. Scott senior has made some of the most influential science fiction films with classics like Blade Runner and Alien to his credit, and Scott junior draws upon some of his father’s past works for inspiration.
Morgan is a hybrid of high concept sci-fi, horror, and action thriller, and there is some build up of suspense in the early scenes. But as the intriguing sci-fi elements give way to more familiar action thriller territory with fisticuff and shootouts, one wishes that the script from Seth W Owen (Peepers, etc) was a bit stronger and less derivative. Some of the dialogue is a bit cliched and delivered without conviction. And there is a late twist, but it is fairly predictable and obvious.
Mark Patten’s cinematography gives the film a suitably cold chilling and unsettling surface. Tom McCullagh’s design of the sterile laboratory also enhances the grim tone of the material.
Surprisingly for a sci-fi film Morgan has some strong female characters and some meaty roles for the key cast. Mara in particular brings a lack of empathy and compassion to her role that suits her ruthlessly efficient character. Newcomer Joy who delivered a strong performance in her breakout role in the horror film The Witch delivers another strong performance here, and she comes across as cold and detached, which suits the character who is devoid of any real emotional connection to those around her. Ridley Scott’s name has obviously been enough to attract a great cast that includes Giammati, Toby Jones, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Yeoh and Brian Cox.
However, despite its flaws, there is enough here to suggest that the younger Scott has some film making abilities, and this is not just a case of “Look at me dad, I can make movies too!”