Like so many ambitious, science fiction or horror movies that carry an intriguing concept and absorbing premise, it’s towards the latter stages of the production where the shortcomings come to the forefront. When a narrative needs a sense of finality, and closure is required, where sense needs to be made of everything that has come before – without that even the more accomplished features can fall flat; and regrettably Luke Scott’s directorial debut Morgan suffers in that very regard, becoming tedious and frustratingly generic as we approach the underwhelming finale.
Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) is an artificial being that was created by doctors Dr. Ziegler (Toby Jones) and Dr. Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) five years ago – and now, appearing as a teenage girl, the subject is starting to portray essential human traits; though one of which is anger and aggression, leading to an attack on colleague Dr. Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh). As a result, hardened corporate risk-management consultant Lee Weathers (Kata Mara) is tasked with analysing the robot and deciding whether the doctors are safe to carry on with their experiment, or if the subject needs to be terminated. Upon her arrival, Weathers soon discovers that those surrounding Morgan, such as behaviour analyst Amy (Rose Leslie), have grown far too attached to the artificial being, and any decision will rely on convincing the scientists emotionally as well as professionally.
There are shades of The Silence of the Lambs prevalent within this production, particularly in the opening act – we watch on as a tomboyish female protagonist prepares to meet her elusive, dangerous subject behind a glass wall. The set-up is similar in that we fear the eponymous lead, particularly given all we know of her is that she brutally attacked one of the doctors caring for her; which instills a fear of sorts, an intensity that lingers throughout the feature, as we’re forever on edge with this role, never sure when, or if, we’re in a position to put our trust in her. However, it’s in the pay-of where the differences become stark, as the narrative loses its way, and what doesn’t help is that Weathers simply isn’t an endearing enough protagonist: too cold in her demeanour, not showing any signs of vulnerability, and without that we struggle to get on her side and root for her cause, which is essential ingredient when needing to engage with the material.
Nonetheless, the film is saved by the remarkable and unsurprisingly effective supporting performance by Toby Jones; though even he has to take second billing, as Paul Giamatti steals the show with an indelible cameo that makes for the most striking, compelling sequence within this feature. It’s a mediocre film, certainly, but with an unforgettable set-piece right in the middle of proceedings, almost like theatre – a two-hander that will truly grip the viewer. Sadly, however, it’s everything either side of that sequence that lets this one down.