The 400-Word Review: Morgan
By Sean Collier
September 5, 2016
Eventually, someone will be able to program a film festival with the title, “Movies From the 2010s About Artificial Intelligence Getting Really Sophisticated.”
Yes, that's an awkward name for a film festival, but you get the idea.
The titans of this trend are Her and Ex-Machina, both of which explored the intersection of human sexuality and computerized personality with style and flair (despite raising some justified concerns about reducing characters to quite literal sex objects).
Morgan, a thriller from first-time director Luke Scott, isn't on par with those films. But its questions are also different; chief among the interests of screenwriter Seth Owen is self-control. Will intelligences that we create be able to exercise it? Even if we provoke them?
And should we maybe figure that out before we make robots capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm?
Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a middle-ranking corporate functionary, travels into the countryside to investigate a hush-hush project; a human-like robot has been born and raised in a laboratory setting, and she's already grown to early adulthood. The staff calls her Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), despite Weathers' continued insistence on referring to her as “it.” Things went well with Morgan for several years, but they've taken a turn; after being informed that her travels outside the lab would be curtailed, she violently attacked a staff member.
A psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti) is due in to investigate Morgan's mental state, and Weathers is to observe and report back. She's working with a hostile crowd, though; it's clear that the staff considers Morgan more of a child and less of a project, and Morgan herself has strong opinions about her treatment and future.
Mara and crew do fine work, but they are outshone by Taylor-Joy, stealing the show for the second time this year (she delivered a knockout performance in The Witch). Surprisingly, Morgan doesn't falter when it fades from theoretical debates to cinematic action; the violence is well-handled and cinematic, and a tense tone is maintained throughout.
There are some serious flaws in the script, most centering on illogical developments. With a project of this size, how do the corporate overseers have basically no idea what's going on? Why would a psychiatrist furiously berate his subject? And why are they in the middle of nowhere? Ignore those gaffes (and a twist you'll see coming from the first reel), though, and Morgan makes for an enjoyable enough ride.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark