Director: Luke Scott
I knew little about Morgan when I first saw it was showing at my local multi-plex. When I read a brief synopsis I knew I wanted in. Morgan is a five year old girl, well in terms of her age that much is true. She is an artificial life form created by human hand. Morgan has been displaying some disturbing behaviour when confronted with emotional turmoil. Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is sent in as a risk assessment officer to investigate. Those few sentences are enough to get me on board and there is more to follow. A.I. and Kate Mara? What’s not to like?
Morgan is being kept at a remote run down old mansion amongst a group of scientists and therapists. Morgan’s most recent offence had happened upon Kathy Grief (an unfortunate name) when she had delivered some disappointing news to Morgan. Upon hearing the news Morgan savagely attacks Kathy stabbing her in the eye several times. Despite these violent outbursts from Morgan the team are adamant the project is a success and yielding results far beyond what they could have hoped for. Unfortunately for them, Lee has other ideas and sets about her assignment with vigour and purpose.
Just prior to the opening of the movie a thought went through my head as to where this film might go. I wasn’t wrong but this didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie a great deal.
There’s some very nice panoramic photography in the early parts of the film which set the film nicely into its claustrophobic environment. It’s surprisingly brutal though unlike Alex Garland’s Ex Machina the film does rely on some action sequences and violence to help the story along.
The cast are very good and what a cast it is; I’m very surprised this film hasn’t had a lot more exposure or perhaps I’ve just missed it. Kate Mara is cool and calculating from start to finish and despite her cold outlook there’s a lot to like in her performance. Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie also plays a more than adequate part as Amy, Morgan’s psychologist and friend. A friend who has clearly become too attached to Morgan to offer an objective approach to the decisions that have to be made about Morgan. She’s a lively character with her own self diagnosed boundary issues. Rose Leslie should go places based not based just on this role or GoT either. Another Brit on board is Toby Jones as a scientist who, like Amy, has become very attached to Morgan. Jones’ stock as a respected actor grows daily and his role here just adds to his stock. Things don’t pan out well for his character here and his dejection and frustration flow through very well. I’m pretty sure I pointed out my reservations about Michelle Yeoh in my Mechanic Resurrection review. In her second opportunity of the week to change my opinion she fails again. She just seems totally detached from the role. Finally Paul Giamatti plays the role of Dr Alan Shapiro who, like Weathers, is brought in to assess Morgan and in particular her state of A.I. mind. Like Toby Jones’s character things don’t quite go to plan for Shapiro but it’s a welcome appearance and they couldn’t have chosen a better actor for the role. He’s almost an interrogator and he gets right under the skin the moment he arrives. Brian Cox and Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Grief) also appear but their screen time is too limited to fairly appraise.
But above all of these performances Morgan predictably stands out. Played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Morgan doesn’t exactly steal the show as it’s her show in the first place but she just takes command of the film. When she’s in more reflective mode she’s isolated and apparently overwhelmed by her existence and yet when the emotions she has developed overwhelm her she becomes a destructive force that you wouldn’t want to cross.
The film works very well. It keeps you on board as it keeps a steady pace and never digresses into unnecessary sub plots too much.
The verdict? 4/5 Stars – A healthy mix of science fiction, emotion and action make Morgan a winner for me.