Film Reviews

MORGAN

By • Aug 30th, 2016 •

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Terrific and highly entertaining. It’s smart, aggressive thriller. Luke Scott has arrived.

We are more interested in changing our appearance with science than changing our brain’s abilities.

Steroids and illegal compounds make athletes faster and stronger. Leg lengthening is the current must-have. It’s expensive in the U.S. where the cost of the surgery runs from $90,000 to $180,000. * Of course, in China the same surgery can cost $10,000. With only 17% of the world’s population having blue eyes, this is the newest challenge for cosmetic profiteers. Changing brown eyes to blue might be risky but it will eventually become a 20-minute office visit. **

Luke Scott’s MORGAN centers on a dedicated group of scientists working on enhanced humanoids, not in their appearance or athletic skills, but brain power – or, something else. The facility’s super-secret lab is headed by Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones). He is very proud of the success his team has made in creating an artificial human-like being they call Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy).

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel is planning to reach 120 in age and has poured millions of dollars into what he calls ‘the immortality project’. He says he is “looking into” parabiosis, which is getting transfusions of blood from a younger person as a way to improve health and potentially reversing aging. 

When Morgan attacks one of her mother-substitutes, the corporation funding the project sends a risk-management consultant, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), to access the situation. Her recommendation could close the project down. Upon arrival, Lee quickly establishes the protocol and direction of her visit.

The staff hardly knows what to make of Lee. Dressed as a Jil Sander devotee, her outfit is elegantly severe and offers no clue to her personality. There will be no “chatting her up.”

Science is working on what we all want: beauty and a long life. No one is demanding research into surgically altering their brain to achieve an IQ of 200.

The current estimation is that approximately one person in 10 billion would have an IQ of 200. With a current world population of 7 billion, there may or may not be one such person alive today. *** 

Dr. Ziegler quickly gives Lee a fast scientific overview of what his team has accomplished. Morgan is completely synthetic. Morgan is technically five years old but looks like a teenage girl. “Born” without a mother or father, Morgan has no designated sex but everyone has chosen to use the female pronoun for her. Morgan has spent her first five years with Dr. Amy Menser (Rose Leslie) as her primary caregiver along with Dr. Darren Finch (Chris Sullivan), Dr. Brenda Finch (Vinette Robinson) and Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The scientists are assisted by Skip Vronsky (Boyd Holbrook) and Ted Brenner (Michael Yare).

With the project’s secrecy and isolation in the woods, the staff has become very close to Morgan. Treating Morgan as an unformed child, they are very attached to her and very protective.

Remember when chimpanzee Travis grievously mauled Charla Nash, blinding her while severing her nose, ears, and both hands, and severely lacerating her face? Whose fault was it? Travis’s owner, who treated him as her son, or Nash, who may have threatened Travis with a different hair color and holding his favorite toy? No one could really blame Travis. He was a non-domesticated animal forced to behave for food. 

The chief scientist overseeing the Morgan project is Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh).

After Morgan’s unusual behavior, she is locked up in her glass-enclosed chamber. She is on display and has no privacy. The thing she loves, going outside with Amy, is forbidden.

Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) arrives to do the psychological evaluation of Morgan. He demands to be seated across from Morgan and starts asking probing questions. He’s clever and provocative. He makes Morgan very angry.

And this is where the worm turns.

Written by Seth W. Owen, MORGAN is sensational. It’s smart and an aggressive thriller. This is director Luke Scott’s first feature film and he has chosen wisely. Scott shows a strong director’s hand with an impressive point of view. Mark Patten, MORGAN’s cinematographer, has worked on the last three films by Ridley Scott. This is Patten’s first film as the director of cinematography and he, as well as film editor Laura Jennings, production designer Tom McCullagh, art direction department head Fiona Gavin, all contribute to bringing Luke Scott to the forefront of young directors. The music by Max Richter is so impressive, it is a supporting character.

There will be a demand for MORGAN 2. Luke Scott could have a franchise his first time coming out of the gate.

Scott also is aided by a strong cast. Kate Mara is perfect as Lee Weathers. Her performance is compelling and I especially liked her saying, “Let me do my job.”

The other outstanding performance is by Paul Giamatti. His pas de deux with Anya Taylor-Joy is terrific and changes the trajectory of the film.

I would also like to note the ultra-violence which is masterfully envisioned.

 

*The Paley Institute website breaks down the costs. Patients may be in a wheelchair for up to 2 years.

** Ballpark figure: $5,000 plus risks.

***An estimation from Earl Hunt, the president of the International Society for Intelligence Research.

 

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

 

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