With anticipated films like Doctor Strange and Assassin’s Creed coming out later in the fall and winter, it’s easy for films like Morgan (made on a measly $8M budget) to get swept up in the mainstream madness. For those in the know as to coming attractions, however, gems like this are never overlooked. While it’s got a slow build-up, the pay-off more than made up for the getting there; it’s no Ex Machina—a film I’ll be using as a parallel here—but Morgan seems a good kick-off to the fall cinematic line-up.
Ever since I first heard about this movie, I’ve been ecstatic about it. I wanted to like it, and why wouldn’t I? The whole marketing campaign gave it a very indie feel (to me, when held against some other recents), Ridley Scott’s name is attached as producer, and IMDb informs me that it’s the feature directorial debut of his son, Luke. With the absence of big stars in its cast and “grayscale” presentation—both pluses, in my book—Morgan was still able to impress. The film’s leading ladies, seemingly the staple of nearly all Scott Free productions (the only exception coming to mind being last year’s hit, The Martian), were the only two I’ve seen any other place, in recent memory: Kate Mara in The Martian and Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch.
While muted and soft-spoken to fit the tone of the film, Kate Mara’s Lee Weathers is by no means outspoken. She can—no spoilers—dole out beatings as well as she can take them, and is a true Scott-style lead, in the same vein as Ellen Ripley from Alien. Anya Taylor-Joy was a surprise in this film as the titular character; relatively-new to stardom, I’d only seen her previously in The Witch, released earlier in the year (see my Rewind Review on that one…). Just as in that role, however, she excelled in this one, proving the cold, calculating, yet compassionate type, and makes the climax (no spoilers) allthemore disheartening. Like her parallel, Ava, in Ex Machina, there’s a sense of reluctant puppetmastery that’s going on behind the scenes in this lab set-up, and who, exactly, is the experiment looks to be unknowable until the final curveball reveal.
I let my mind go blank during the viewing, even though I could easily draw the parallels between the film’s own layout and those of other suspense films that came before it. The commitment of the director, beautiful, on-site photography (filmed on-location in Ireland), and polished, under-the-hood craftsmanship all show through in the presentation. Luke Scott should have a good career ahead of himself.
The muted, indie-style production marketing (I hadn’t heard of this film until the teaser banner was hung in my theatre), as well as its release so close to the beginning of the fall school term, may, unfortunately, lead to a low box office turn-out, but those desirous of a nice sit-down film should definitely get out and see this one. The ending twist, which was jaw-dropping, the surprise Brian Cox cameo, and the level of care and artistic precision—while not Ex Machina-level—all make for an entertaining ninety minutes.
Luke Scott’s Morgan gets a final ‘Risk Assessment rating of ****/*.
Next review: Stranger Things (finally..)