September 26, 2016

Movie Monday: Morgan

Morgan is the first film directed by Luke Scott, the son of legendary director Ridley Scott. It is a science-fiction thriller, much like his father is known for. It isn't devoid of style, but it felt very direct. What symbolism is present on-screen served only to make the final turn the story takes obvious. But while Morgan isn't the introduction of a brilliant new voice, it is a solidly entertaining flick.

Anna Taylor-Joy stars as the eponymous character opposite Kate Mara as Lee Weathers, a risk-management consultant. Anna Taylor-Joy gave a knockout performance that made it clear she's a future star in The Witch. Morgan is a more closed off character, tasked with being magnetic and childlike and inhuman and creepy and feminine yet androgynous. It's a lot to try to convey through a character whose emotions are internalized until they explode. I definitely think Taylor-Joy seemed to have more fun when Morgan was out of control.

Mara, however, is entirely fantastic as the cold, professional Lee. Most of the other characters resent her for encroaching on their project, which is now in jeopardy. Morgan, an artificial human, is a potential product line for the company. But she's attacked one of her handlers (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and now the company must assess whether she's viable or not. Lee hasn't raised Morgan, and seems disturbed by how the researchers have humanized her. Meanwhile, it seems disturbing to the viewer how easily Lee can dehumanizing something that looks human and appears to have human reactions.

The cast is a parade of familiar faces for science fiction fans, including Rose Leslie, Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh, and Brian Cox, among others. It's a small cast, but everyone does good work. You can feel how fervently most of them care for Morgan, while only a few have held themselves objective enough to see Morgan's bursts of temper as a very bad sign.

The story won't surprise any long-time science fiction fans. Morgan doesn't bring much to meditations of what does or doesn't make us human. But it offers some well-choreographed mayhem and more than a few powerful performances, which is enough for me. It's a fun way to take a break on a hot summer afternoon.

(I know it is officially fall, but it still feels like summer where I am.)

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