Morgan

 

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An experiment in the lab is deemed too dangerous to continue – but the DNA creation has 

other thoughts….

 

Morgan

The bride of Frankenstein? Anya Taylor-Joy and Kate Mara

  

Morgan is a suitable case for treatment. The five-year-old product of a breakthrough genetic experiment, Morgan could pass for a relatively normal teenage girl. There is an ethereal, almost alien-like air to ‘her’, whose eyes seem to penetrate the back of your head. She is the third in a line of DNA trials and has exceeded all expectations. At the age of one month she was walking and talking and now, at five years, she is a sentient being, with a love of music and an almost super-human capacity for self-preservation. She is also a highly guarded secret hidden away at a high-tech facility deep in remote woodland. But when she overreacts during an interview with a scientist (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and takes her eye out, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a risk management consultant “from corporate,” stops by to assess whether or not the programme – and, more specifically, Morgan – should be terminated. And the question Lee has to ask herself is whether Morgan, as a biological entity with emotions, has the right to live?

 

Morgan, the film, marks the directorial debut of Luke Scott, the fifth in the Scott filmmaking dynasty, following his uncle Tony, his father Ridley, his brother Jake (Plunkett & Macleane; 1999) and sister Jordan (Cracks; 2009). And like many in his family, he brings a strong female presence to his drama. As in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), the main protagonist is a woman who finds herself amongst a small group of scientists threatened by the presence of a female monster, or at least something dangerous safeguarding her own conservation. Luke’s ace card is in the casting of Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) in the title role, as she brings enormous empathy to her part, creating a woman-as-child who views the world outside her cell as the epitome of Paradise. And the fact that she is so otherworldly adds to her allure.

 

Conversely, Kate Mara’s Lee Weathers is an ice queen content to toe the corporate line, a figure not much less sympathetic than Dr Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), a scientist whom Morgan calls ‘Mother.’ The only really likeable human character is Amy (the smoky-voiced Rose Leslie), a compassionate psychoanalyst with Morgan’s best interests at heart.

 

What the scientists surrounding their organic prize – and the nameless corporation pulling the strings – fail to recognise, is that Morgan is missing one vital constituent: love. When the Romanian president Nicolae Ceaușescu instigated his programme of rapid population growth, 170,000 children ended up in state-run institutions. Any form of emotional connection was discouraged, to deter the children’s demand for affection which, with the limited funds, was impossible to facilitate. The result was that the orphans’ brains developed abnormally, leading to low IQs and poor language skills. Likewise, Morgan, in spite of her synthetically enhanced intelligence, is deprived of the one ingredient that would make her human – and safe to join the outside world.

 

It is unfortunate for Luke Scott’s film that it arrives so soon on the heels of Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015), another exploration of an artificial being developed in a remote and sterile environment. Whereas the latter was replete with fascinating ideas and unfolded like a game of dramatic chess, Morgan reverts to thriller cliché and eventually to arch silliness. Only Morgan herself warrants our attention, as she struggles to comprehend who she really is. “I am different,” she says. “I am apples and oranges. Forgive me, I sometimes struggle with metaphors.” She’s a heart-breaking creation and she deserves more than this Ten Little Indians re-tread. For something so professedly thought-provoking, it’s a shame that it ends up being so generic. It really could have taken some very intriguing shifts in direction.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, Chris Sullivan, Vinette Robinson, Michael Yare, Jonathan Aris, Brian Cox.

 

Dir Luke Scott, Pro Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer and Mark Huffam, Screenplay Seth Owen, Ph Mark Patten, Pro Des Tom McCullagh, Ed Laura Jennings, Music Max Richter, Costumes Stefano De Nardis.

 

Scott Free Productions-20th Century Fox.

91 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 2 September 2016. Cert. 15.