PLOT: A corporate troubleshooter (Kate Mara) is called to a remote laboratory after a genetically engineered specimen (Anna Taylor-Joy of THE WITCH) violently lashes-out at one of her creators.
REVIEW: MORGAN is a solid studio debut for director Luke Scott, the latest in a long-directorial dynasty that includes his father Ridley, his uncle – the late Tony Scott, and his brother Jake (WELCOME TO THE RILEYS) and sister Jordan (CRACKS). It’s an efficient, slick, well-crafted debut that, as a friend of mine aptly put it, was like a sillier version of EX-MACHINA, meaning lots of carnage and hand-to-hand fights, but not too much in the way of pathos. For a Labor Day weekend release, it’s slightly above-average.
The premise here is that Anna Taylor-Joy’s titular Morgan is a genetically engineered life form, with above-average strength and intelligence. However, her psychological well-being is called into question when, after being denied a trip outside, she gouges out one of her creators’ eyes, leading the corporate suit in charge (Brian Cox) to consider shutting-down the project unless he gets an OK from his number two, Kate Mara’s ice-cold Lee Weathers. Her job is made more difficult by the fact that most of the scientists feel parentally protective of their subject, with only Michelle Yeoh’s seen-it-all project head aware how bad the experiment can go. Even Morgan’s victim (Jennifer Jason Leigh in a smallish part) seems OK with the fact that she’s been left with only one-working eye thanks to their creation.
At under ninety minutes, MORGAN is a slick B-movie produced on a reasonable budget (with most location work having been kept inside the bunker and the surrounding Northern Irish woods) although the supporting cast is well-above average. Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook and The Knick’s Chris Sullivan also feature, as does Paul Giamatti in a dynamic one-scene cameo as a psychiatrist sent to evaluate Morgan. While it’s his first film, Scott’s clearly got a solid handle on his craft having worked as his father’s 2nd Unit Director on EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS and THE MARTIAN. With sharp visuals and a steady-pace, MORGAN is a good calling card for Scott, who’ll most likely move on to bigger features after this.
However, MORGAN falls short of being a real, late-summer sleeper. For one thing, while it has an intriguing start, once it moves into more familiar genre territory, the air gets sucked out of the thing as all the scientists start acting like fools. Mara’s the heroine, but by virtue of the story she’s even colder and more remote than Morgan, making her difficult to root for, with a late-in-the-game twist being all-too expected. One also has to question the wisdom in having Morgan and Lee fight in BOURNE IDENTITY-style close-combat. Wouldn’t both try to improvise or steal weapons of some kind? It feels like Scott was just trying to go with what’s hot in this regard, and I guess punch-up fights are the thing now.
Despite some weird choices and an overabundance of cheese towards the end, MORGAN is still a decent-enough watch, and a fine Saturday afternoon matinee after a few slow weekends at the box-office. It’s not a really good film but it’s a passable one and worth checking-out for starving genre fans.