At the movies: ‘Morgan’
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
As we close in on the ability to create designer humans, the question of should we or shouldn’t we continue along this path becomes both a practical matter and an ethical dilemma. “Morgan” is a halfhearted attempt to examine the possibilities, giving only a nod to motivations such as human limitations and corporate profits.
In the near future, artificially created Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), is a “product” owned by the corporation that made her. She was created using artificial DNA, then grown in a lab. Morgan lives, or rather, is kept at a remote top-secret facility, her day-to-day development studied by a small army of biological researchers and behavioral scientists.
A decade or so into the project, Morgan is 5 years old chronologically, but she’s the physical and mental equivalent of a 20-year-old woman. Stronger, smarter and faster than her keepers, Morgan is skilled at manipulating others. Though unrecognized by those tending to her, Morgan sets off fight-or-flight alarms in the rest of us. After she attacks and brutally injures behavioral psychiatrist Kathy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Morgan is put in lock down, where safety protocols prevent anyone from entering her glassed-in apartment.
“Corporate risk-management consultant” Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) arrives to assess Morgan’s viability as a “product stream.” Matter-of-fact and detached, Weathers interviews the project’s Ph.D.-ed personnel, all living on site. They each appear either emotionally attached to Morgan or to the research accomplishment she represents.
The question has become whether Morgan can or can’t be contained and controlled. Doe-eyed Anya Taylor-Joy nicely portrays a subject fully aware of her tenuous situation, but determined to survive. Whatever Morgan’s strengths or flaws, she is clearly human in this regard. During the film’s first two acts, each corporate employee and objective expert address Morgan’s value, though having previously telegraphed their positions, it’s an exercise in redundancy.
We’re left waiting for Morgan to seize any opportunity to free herself, and for her researchers to finally conclude they never understood her. As Morgan grapples with concepts such as love, friendship and betrayal, it falls to Weathers to contain the fallout.
Directed by Ridley Scott’s son Luke, the film boasts an interesting ensemble. Acclaimed actors show up in supporting roles. Toby Jones plays an officious lead scientist, Michelle Yeoh appears as the project manager, and Paul Giamatti injects a bit of much-needed fun into his arrogant corporate psychologist.
On the wrong side of human rights issues with no one to defend her, I found myself more sympathetic to Morgan’s plight than to the concerns of a largely unseen corporate big shot (Brian Cox), pulling the strings. The film slowly reveals what purpose Morgan is meant to serve, and when it finally does, in the guise of a “big twist,” we sense the script has played fast and loose with its own rules. In some circles, that’s called cheating.