MORGAN (USA/15A/92mins)
Directed by Luke Scott. Starring Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Paul Giamatti, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie
THE PLOT: Corporate fixer Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is sent to a remote location to balance the risk vs profit of an artificially created humanoid named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) after she stabs her handler Kathy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in an unprovoked attack.
THE VERDICT: ‘Morgan’ is the first feature length film from Luke Scott – son of Ridley – and although it boasts an impressive cast, it is hard to shake the feeling that we have seen this story before.
Kate Mara leads the cast as the cold, calculating and logical Lee Weathers. Mara does well in the role, and makes Weathers the voice of reason throughout the film, while allowing the audience’s suspicions about the character to grow. Anya Taylor-Joy obviously has fun with her character, beloved and feared in equal measure, as she fights the instincts created within her. The rest of the cast features Jennifer Jason Leigh, Toby Jones, Brian Cox, Rose Leslie, Michelle Yeoh and Paul Giamatti in smaller roles.
Seth W. Owen’s screenplay, while inventive, struggles with familiarity almost from the offset. While exposition is carefully handled, and the dialogue feels natural, the story is very reminiscent of Hanna meets Ex Machina, and the film struggles to shake this off. The twist, such as it is, is obvious from very early on, and the characters never rounded out enough for us to know who they are bar a one-line synopsis.
As director, Luke Scott does fine with ‘Morgan’, the tension is ramped up throughout the running time, but the secrets that the film holds are clear from the start. The performances are strong and the pacing is steady, and although the final set piece is a lot of fun, the film offers more questions than answers, and does not leave the audience feeling smart for figuring it out ahead of time, but rather daft for believing that there were answers to be had.
In all, there is fun to be had with ‘Morgan’, but the feeling of familiarity lingers throughout the film. Luke Scott has assembled a phenomenal cast, and cemented his place as a director to watch out for, but a more original screenplay would have helped the film, as would actors who were properly used to show off just how darn good they are. Still, ‘Morgan’ is worth a watch, but never quite grips the way it should.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Film seems to flow through the blood of the Scott family. Ridley is of course a highly-respected, visionary director. His children have, in turn, each tried their hand at directing. Jake with Plunkett & Macleane, Jordan with Cracks… and now Luke with Morgan.

    At a countryside retreat, a secret experiment is being carried out. An artificially-created being with AI programming is being probed and analysed by a group of scientists, including Amy (Rose Leslie), Simon (Toby Jones), Lui (Michelle Yeoh) and Kathy (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It is only known as Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), but comes in the shape of a young woman. After Morgan assaults Kathy, risk management consultant Lee (Kate Mara) is sent by corporate to assess Morgan’s behaviour and as to whether it should be terminated. As Kate discovers more about Morgan, she realises that Morgan is not to be trusted. The intervention of confrontational Dr Alan (Paul Giamatti) sets in chain a series of disastrous events…

    Morgan draws obvious comparisons with last year’s Ex Machina, which Alex Garland wrote and directed as an intelligent dissection of whether artificial intelligence could emulate true human behaviour. From a script by Seth W. Owen, Morgan is the more basic version – with the emphasis more on tension and breakouts of sudden violence, rather than a coolly intellectual analysis at what AI involves. It may feel inferior, but that’s not to say it’s a bad film. Morgan definitely has its moments, like the scene involving Dr Alan and Morgan. Up to that point, the story felt a bit ordinary. The introduction, albeit all too briefly, of Giamatti raises the film up an extra level. After that, it becomes a cautionary tale of playing God – nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s done with a sense of style.

    Shot on location in Northern Ireland, Morgan looks and sounds great. Scott has obviously paid attention to his father’s work and has that family photographer’s eye for detail. He also makes good use of the landscapes and interiors, as a way of making the characters feel trapped within the confines of their environment – another Scott family trademark. Taylor-Joy follows on from her stand-out turn in the year’s finest horror film so far, The Witch, with an equally eye-catching turn. Her paled-down face acts as a contrast to her deep blue eyes, making her character feel human and yet not human. Is Morgan really human? Or is it capable of human emotion? The ending is an obvious nod to Blade Runner, but it makes sense when you play it back in your head as the end credits roll. Morgan may be flawed, but it’s a good start for Luke Scott. Hopefully, he can build upon this in the years to come. ***