Having manufactured “Morgan” in a lab and witnessed her sudden tantrums, the scientists here are surprisingly un-self-aware. As Michelle Yeoh seriously intones: “For every decision we make, there are consequences.” Dramatic-ironic portents would be fine in a knowingly fun film, but not only do the characters (logically, expectedly) not realise they’re in a thriller, the filmmakers (foolishly, blindly) don’t realise how groaningly little that matters these days.
Nevertheless Seth Owen’s structure, translated with lucidity and impressively modulated rhythms by Luke Scott, is a very interesting one; there may be no hook or reason to keep watching beyond the first 10 minutes (like, they should just terminate the damn project), but it all develops at a natural pace with occasional breathing room. Scott hasn’t got the hang of directing actors yet, and much of Morgan is edited terribly, but the standout scene, a two-hander between Paul Giamatti and Anya Taylor-Joy (who impressed in The Witch and impresses here), is written sublimely and cut together well.
Scott – and his excellent eye for colour, standing as riposte to the stultifying desaturation we’d expect – perhaps misfires in treating this $8m movie as a big studio gig. Certain scenes show he has talent for honest drama and organic tension but this is buried throughout within a self-consciousness of style; the chief influences are apparently Ex Machina and Alien, but there you could see fingerprints, personality and instinct. Morgan the film feels largely as robotic as Morgan the AI creation. And sadly, it’s not as smart.
Morgan boasts a stellar ensemble, an intriguing stylistic mishmash, and history’s lamest car chase. Despite overt slickness (betraying an unsteady reliance on how-to guides), and reneging on their fantastic hero – a good showcase for the ever-intelligent Kate Mara – with a frankly insulting final twist, the filmmakers clearly have promise.
CAST: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Paul Giamatti, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh
DIRECTOR: Luke Scott
WRITER: Seth Owen
SYNOPSIS: Created and raised in a lab, “Morgan” (Taylor-Joy) progresses at an alarming, superhuman rate. When she attacks one of the scientists, however, a corporate troubleshooter (Mara) must determine whether the experiment should be terminated.