Ridley Scott’s son Luke makes a disappointingly flat directorial debut with this technically solid, well-cast sci-fi thriller romp that rarely manages to catch fire and ultimately collapses under the weight of its own import.
Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is a corporate troubleshooter paying visit to a secret laboratory where an artificially-created human by the name of Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) violently attacked one of the facility’s scientists (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Lee is to assess Morgan’s long-term viability and whether or not she should be terminated, but of course, there’s more to Morgan than meets the eye, and she has her own ideas about what should happen next.
There’s definitely a solid enough concept here even if it does feel overly indebted to both Ex-Machina and Hannah from the outset, but what lets Morgan down almost immediately is an agonisingly sluggish pace and deference towards exposition over incident. Scott clearly favours a slow build but fatally fails to populate it with much of interest, at least until Paul Giamatti turns up mid-film for an admittedly terrific cameo appearance.
After this, the movie basically settles into a rote slasher-type scenario that’s a far more familiar path than that stoic build-up seemed to imply. Though Mara is largely soporific as the misplaced lead, Taylor-Joy, who proved such a terrific find in last year’s The Witch, is riveting throughout even when the rest of the film isn’t. Hopefully she’ll find better scripts from this point on.
Further damaging the gear-shift towards action is the eyeball-assaultingly awful editing; Scott splices up to a dozen cuts per punch, kick and flip, perhaps to mask his own inexperience with fight choreography, and this results in set-pieces that appear to actively attempt to ape the visual incoherence of Taken 3’s spasmodic fisticuffs.
It all leads up to a final reveal that’s more comically predictable than shocking, and if you somehow didn’t guess it, you were probably mentally checked out of the movie long before that twist came along (no judgement here). It’s easy to want to like the film, but with uneven pacing and a disappointingly generic second half, its pleasures are sporadic at best.
Morgan is in cinemas now