Morgan is not like other five year-olds. She has the appearance of a young adult, yet she was created and raised in a lab by a group of scientists who have become her de facto caretakers and parents. Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, also is super strong and when she’s upset or challenged apt to lash out with horrific results. After she kills a deer, she’s confined to quarters, a glass enclosed facility where she is constantly monitored. Not being able to roam free angers Morgan and her violence escalates, stabbing Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the eye.
Enter Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), sent by “corporate” to assess the situation. Are Morgan’s recent outbursts the result of a technical quirk that can be fixed? Or should she be terminated? Lee quickly realizes that those close to Morgan have lost all sense of objectivity. Rather than being able to evaluate what is happening from a scientific point of view, their emotional attachment to Morgan clouds their opinions. Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) arrives to conduct a psychological evaluation and refuses to do so with the glass wall between them. Morgan is provoked and Shapiro suffers the consequences. There’s now enough evidence that Morgan should be terminated. When the scientists balk at the order, Morgan escapes and all hell breaks lose. It’s up to Lee to track down and kill Morgan.
Mara, who also starred in Scott’s Oscar-nominated The Martian, adds to her impressive resume with this film. (Mara’s standout performance in Netflix’s House of Cards has won her many fans.) As the top billed actor in the film, she’s essentially opening it, a huge responsibility producers do not consider lightly because it directly impacts the bottom line. The trifecta of Mara, Scott, and Sci-Fi should ensure Morgan a strong box office at a time when summer films are fading.
With a running time around 90 minutes, Morgan is a thrill ride. Scott keeps the suspense growing. In the early scenes, Morgan seems harmless enough, particularly when she’s enjoying walks in the forest with Dr. Amy Menser (Rose Leslie, Gwen from Downton Abbey and Ygritte in Game of Thrones). But the possibility of violence percolates under the surface. Taylor-Joy is chilling as the machine-like Morgan, never smiling and her ashen face a cross between a robot and a corpse, neither of which is reassuring. The two actresses are evenly matched in expertly staged fight scenes where the outcome is never certain.
Morgan opens nationwide September 2, 2016.
Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan – TM & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.