Earlier this year, I bragged on The Witch star Anya Taylor-Joy, hoping to see her get a chance in the industry. So, I’m obviously pleased to see her attain another starring role on a slightly larger scale with Morgan. I’ve enjoyed much of Kate Mara’s work, as well, so if nothing else, I was interested in catching this one for the two of them and the horror movie vibe the marketing has been putting out there.
Morgan doesn’t seem to getting a whole lot of attention. It may be getting lost in the end-of-summer shuffle. That’s too bad as it works pretty well as a thought-provoking adrenaline rush. It’s a little of Hanna, a helping of Ex Machina, a lot of Jurassic Park, and a smidge of Milla Jovovich’s Alice from Resident Evil rolled into one. So, even if it’s not an altogether original idea, it’s a pretty well-executed one.
Once again, Taylor-Joy really gets to shine. There’s one specific scene that she shares with Paul Giamatti that the two turn into an aggressive dance, both of them effortlessly jumping between powerful emotions as if they were hopscotch squares. It’s brilliant on both of their parts. As long as she’s offered and chooses the right parts, Taylor-Joy is going to be a star with a lot of “fans” who aren’t even aware of some of her best work (think Christopher Nolan’s Memento or Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone).
Giamatti is at his best here, as well, and Kate Mara hopes to raise her leading-lady profile with a solid showing, even if not much is asked of her. The characters are handled very well and their relationships are managed in such a way to be a step ahead of the audience’s expectations while ultimately remaining more realistic for the given setting and situation. It’s worth noting that there are at least as many women in the cast as there are men – if not more – and the story never centers around romantic or physical interactions. Well done.
The film, itself, is an artificial intelligence story, of which there have been many as of late (understandably so). But it also hits the idea of personal responsibility regarding our own creations very strongly as well. Whether it’s John Oppenheimer or some negligent parent with bratty kids at the next table at Applebee’s, we all are responsible for what we create. Though, many (most?) prefer to blame outside sources such as the girl who wouldn’t go out with them, a bad day at work, or violent video games. In Morgan, who bears the responsibility is a little more black-and-white than that, but the way to handle the issue is certainly a complex one.
And that’s where things get exciting. I was never really sure where the film was going or what its final point was going to be, though I picked up on some subtle clues from both Luke Scott’s directing and certain performance aspects early on in the film that I managed to read correctly, but it was still a manic ride getting to that point. Somehow the film manages to be equal parts fun and horrifying as things just spiral out of control. Everything makes sense along the way (if you’ve been paying attention) and the film works itself into a nice little package by the time the narrative concludes.
I haven’t read anyone else’s thoughts on Morgan but I am aware of its mixed reviews and suspect that the prevailing complaint is the been-there-done-that storytelling. And that’s fair. But if that’s the entire takeaway, then a few very solid performances (particularly from Giamatti and Taylor-Joy, who has now stolen two out of two movies from her much more experienced co-stars) and some downright exhilaratingly-shot and -choreographed action scenes go overlooked. And that’s not fair. No matter, at the end of the day, Morgan is a competently produced, yet lazily written, film that will likely be the answer to Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy! questions once Taylor-Joy hits it big.
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