Luke (son of Ridley) Scott’s directing debut is a serviceable, if unremarkable, lo-fi sci-fi thriller which asks familiar questions about the place of artificial intelligence in the modern world. Unfortunately these are questions which have been asked a little too often recently and, in all honesty, the answers were given pretty comprehensibly in Alex Garland’s striking Ex Machina just two years ago. Consequently, Morgan just comes across as a rather flabby postscript, a film with pretensions towards the pretentious which it abandons in the final reel for a few fist fights, car chases and random bloodshed.
The whole set-up is achingly familiar, if not entirely uninteresting. Corporate troubleshooter Lee Weathers (Mara) is dispatched to a top secret middle-of-nowhere research facility where revolutionary experiments are being conducted on a new, advanced level of living, breathing artificial life. But Morgan (Taylor-Joy) has developed a glitch and has plunged a blade into the eye of one of her supervisors. Eeuuw! At the facility Weathers gets acquainted with the staff and even has a little romantic kissy-kissy with one of them. But clearly something’s not right and despite the best, slightly desperate efforts of the unit’s top brains (including the ubiquitous Toby Jones) to paper over the cracks and dismiss a previous rogue AI incident, which saw a team of scientists killed, Weathers can’t help but voice her growing concerns, especially when Morgan kills a visiting psychologist (Giamatti). Not unreasonably, Lee decides that Morgan – super-powered and hyper-intelligent – ain’t worth the risk and orders the experiment to be terminated. You’d not be too far off the mark if you were to suggest that perhaps things don’t go quite as planned…
After a leisurely, moody first hour set in and around the research facility and its environs, establishing the tone of a film which has precious little originality but is content to revisit familiar themes with some style and gravitas, all Hell breaks loose in the last half-hour. Perhaps writer Owen felt his story needed a kick up the backside or maybe Scott decided he needed to show his credentials as an action director. Either way the last act is a shock to the system as Morgan sets off on a rampage, killing anyone in her way and suddenly ratcheting up the film’s previously-sedate adrenaline levels. This change of pace – and a ‘twist’ ending you’ll probably have twigged a good hour earlier – turns Morgan into a bumpy, frustrating ride. Although it was never destined to be anything other than a tame reworking of the likes of Hanna and Ex Machina, it might have stood a better chance of hanging onto its credibility as a measured character study-come-morality tale if it had ditched the gung-ho and been satisfied with being just a bit hey-ho. Watchable, well-made – Scott shows some promise behind the camera – and with game performances, Morgan’s not a waste of time but it certainly doesn’t tread any new ground and it’s hard to shake off the nagging suspicion that it really wasn’t trying to.
Special features: Commentary / deleted scenes / documentary / short film / still gallery
MORGAN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: LUKE SCOTT / SCREENPLAY: SETH W. OWEN / STARRING: KATE MARA, ANNA TAYLOR-JOY, TOBY JONES, MICHELLE YEOH, PAUL GIAMATTI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW