While it's easier to simply refer to Morgan's director Luke Scott as the son of legendary filmmaker Sir Ridley Scott, to do so would immediately be doing him an injustice. Undoubtedly, there was probably some nepotism at play during Luke Scott's ascension to his first feature film as a director, but having worked in commercials, short films, and as second unit on his father's films Exodus: Gods And Kings and The Martian, he's more than paid his dues.
Thankfully, with Morgan, it's very much like father, like son, as Luke Scott crafts a smart, well-paced, and, most importantly, ultimately entertaining sci-fi thriller that's still moody and pensive. Well, for the most part he does, as Morgan possesses some noticeable flaws that threaten to waylay your enjoyment.
But who is Morgan? Created and subsequently raised in a laboratory, Morgan is a robot with super-human strength and qualities that means she was walking and talking by one month and, at six, had become completely self-sufficient. However, after viciously attacking and severely injuring one of the scientists (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Kate Mara's Lee Weathers, a corporate troubleshooter, is brought into the compound to evaluate whether or not Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) should be terminated. While there, she is greeted by the team of very loyal scientists that have spent six years working on the project, and just want Morgan to be safe.
I have to admit that it took me an hour to fully embrace and enjoy Morgan, as I constantly found myself wondering whether it would actually deliver and payoff. While always gorgeous to look at (Luke Scott is terrifically assisted by cinematographer Mark Patten to create a haunting but naturalistic aesthetic) and boasting fine performances from its eclectic ensemble, its build-up repeatedly dovetails into the melodramatic to briefly sabotage your enjoyment.
It says a lot about the quality of the cast that they're regularly able to save Morgan from these problems, though. Particularly Anya Taylor-Joy as the eponymous creation, who continues her impressive 2016 that started off with The Witch. In both Morgan and The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy, who is obviously recognizable as beautiful, has shown off an unsettling on-screen aroma that feels fresh and exciting.
Morgan is a great role for Anya Taylor-Joy, too, as everyone spends the first 20 minutes talking about her before she's introduced, which only amps up the excitement when you first see her. She doesn't buckle under this pressure, though, and only builds upon it. A blending of budding heart and growing rage and resentment, Joy keeps Morgan teetering on the edge of these pubescent emotions with a layered performance that methodically yet subtly twists and turns.
It's not just her, though. Kate Mara's cold, cunning exterior makes her the perfect conduit between the film and the audience as we're thrust into this world, while she's also able to throw down some action chops when called upon.
While, following his similar turn in Captain America: First Avenger, Toby Jones once again proves that he's the perfect actor to portray an unhinged scientist that's a little too obsessed with his subject, and Paul Giamatti, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Rose Leslie each chime in with noticeable contributions, too, raising the intensity, emotion, and conflict when called upon.
Their performances help to sell a script that's overly expositional as it gets going and then becomes wrought with melodrama as the characters unrealistically and excessively push buttons to overly aggressively get the film into the third act. After threatening frustration, Morgan then makes a narrative decision that you can see coming, but you'll be very happy that it does just that.
That's because, with its conclusion, Morgan changes gears, going from a patient sci-fi thriller that's more akin to last year's Ex Machina, which it will inevitably be compared to, and ramps up the action. But, as long you accept its sudden Hollywoodization and the necessary stupidity that it takes to get there, you'll be satisfied and entertained by what transpires.
Luke Scott handles this adjustment well, though, opening Morgan up from its previous containment for a faster, more energetic finale with a large scope, that's hugely entertaining and twists and turns right up until the very last second. So much so that, while it's far from perfect, with Morgan Luke Scott suggests that he's very much his father's son. Which is something we should all be excited about.