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article imageReview: ‘Morgan’ treads in the deep before moving to shallower territory Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 4, 2016 in Entertainment
‘Morgan’ is a sci-fi thriller that spends some time debating the ethics and rights of its characters before activating its action mode.
While early scientific advancements are often made in the name of helping people, it doesn’t take long for those same discoveries to be manipulated and applied to more experimental endeavours that are simply meant to satisfy curiosities rather than serve the greater good. Or, as is often the case, a military-purpose is determined and the finding is taken in never-intended directions. While those very close to the project may retain an emotional attachment, the decision-makers tend to be more aloof and concerned with the bottom-line. In Morgan, these two positions clash over the survival of a synthetic being.
In an isolated mansion in the middle of nowhere, scientists were tasked with creating a controllable, weaponized human. After several attempts, they gave birth to Morgan. Growing rapidly from infancy to adolescence, it exceeded their expectations in cognitive and physical prowess as well as emotional development. However after an unexpectedly violent incident, “the company” requires Morgan be evaluated by external, indifferent parties — risk management consultant Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) arrives as the company’s representative during the proceedings and psychologist Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) is sent to determine Morgan’s viability. But a series of poor decisions leads to a hasty manhunt that pits Lee against Morgan.
The trailer gives the impression the sci-fi movie is this generation’s Species: after being held captive for most of her life, the remarkably successful experiment decides it no longer wants to be a prisoner; its escape results in an extensive search and many deaths. However that’s not really this film’s premise at all. The other characters have strong opinions regarding Morgan’s rights and likeness to humans, making strong arguments for either side of the debate. But its true nature only appears to emerge when it’s threatened… or angry. Nonetheless, the entire narrative basically unfolds within a five-mile radius, rather than across state lines. Morgan has small dreams that were probably inappropriately nurtured by its handlers, which results in significant confusion when they’re required to place restrictions on it.
Lee is immediately positioned as a straight-laced, formidable opponent in any situation. She dresses very conservatively and shows little emotion, save for the occasional, tight-lipped smile. She’s there to do a job and nothing or no one will sway her from completing it to the satisfaction of her superiors. However, it’s also clear early on that the facility’s staff will be her greatest obstacle as they’ve become emotionally attached to their experiment. For some, Morgan is a friend; to others, a daughter. Morgan often appears to be a normal teenage girl; but like the flip of a switch, she can turn deadly. Both Mara and Taylor-Joy portray the nuances of their characters, the latter finding a balance between lethal and child-like.
The ethics of the picture’s personalities are left for the audience to debate and they’ll likely find it difficult to make a clear determination between right and wrong. But as the narrative progresses, the viewer’s attention is shifted to its action elements and all the thoughtful prodding is left at the wayside… or not. Luke Scott’s feature directorial debut lives in the same realm as his father, Ridley Scott’s, pictures, but approaches it from a different angle.
However, inspired by the film’s premise, Luke was able to accomplish a cinematic first: scientists at IBM Research collaborated with 20th Century Fox to create the first-ever cognitive movie trailer. Utilizing experimental Watson APIs and machine learning techniques, the IBM Research system analyzed hundreds of horror/thriller movie trailers. After learning what keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, the AI system suggested the top 10 best moments from Morgan for a trailer, which an IBM filmmaker then edited and arranged together.
Director: Luke Scott
Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy and Paul Giamatti
More about Morgan, Kate Mara, Anya Taylor Joy, Rose Leslie, Michael Yare
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