I’m no expert, but anytime a synthetic life-form takes comfort in opera and playing chess with itself, it should be perceived as a major red flag. Nothing that sophisticated can be up to any good. If Morgan relaxed with a game of Connect Four and the soundtrack to “Titanic,” time is all she’d be killing, I guarantee it.
Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, a herald of corporate intervention, who is tasked with evaluating the worth of a biological experiment after an “accident” occurs. The biological experiment is Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), an artificially created young woman, and the “accident” involves Morgan gouging out the eye of a scientist without provocation. Upon Weathers’ arrival, she is escorted into a sickly estate, where all the scientists live together. After a series of introductions, Weathers’ finds that Morgan inspires the divisive use of pronouns—Weathers prefers “it” and the scientists prefer “she.” At this point, the entire operation begins to feel less like an experiment, and more like a sitcom about a house full of scientists attempting to raise the mopey teenager from hell. But, as you might guess, it’s not nearly as innocent as that.
Directed by first-timer, Luke Scott, the film does a superb job of building an eerie calm. The manner in which the by-the-book Weathers—arms perpetually folded, like a makeshift shield—is introduced to the scientists one by one feels almost noir-like in its pacing, which adds a unique flavor to what is ultimately a familiar tale of Man playing God. Likewise, Scott is incredibly stingy on what we see, as the entire film takes place in three locations: laboratory, house and forest surrounding the laboratory and house. This, too, creates an air of solitude and quiet, as well as puts the audience at a disadvantage, for a glimpse of civilization might offer some clue to the nature of Morgan and the project surrounding her.
But, sadly, this slow build doesn’t build up to much, other than some meaningless sleight-of-hand, which will be instantly sniffed out by even the greenest of sci-fi enthusiasts. In fact, the film doesn’t appear to have anything to say, for its revelations are not intellectual; they’re merely excuses for allowing the events of the film to take place—something you’re more likely to find in an action film than cerebral sci-fi. However, there are sporadic, interesting concepts embedded within the story, such as a possible misunderstanding concerning a dying deer.
“Morgan” plays its all-star cast to their strengths. Mara is chilly and strong, Anya Taylor-Joy is dangerously alluring and Paul Giamatti plays a loud-mouthed worm of a man. The most puzzling addition to the cast is Brian Cox, whose entire purpose is to come in at the end and explain everything. It almost has the pathetic essence of a stand-up feeling the need to explain a joke that didn’t go over well. “Never apologize, never explain,” as somebody once said.
You won’t like Morgan when she’s angry, and you might not like “Morgan” at all, but I did. Like its namesake, I found it oddly seductive—the first two acts, at least—and its flaws somewhat remedied by its more numerous strengths.
3.5 out of 5 stars