Morgan kicks off with a scene of violence. This violence is the impetus to send risk management consultant Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) to a remote laboratory housing a very peculiar experiment. This lab has created Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), an artificially created life form. Though just five years old, Morgan looks like a teenager, and has highly evolved intelligence. Given Morgan's recent displays of violent behavior, Lee has been sent to assess her continued viability as an experiment. She gets to know everyone at the facility, including Morgan, and is basically given authority to decide whether or not to terminate this life form.
The film sort of positions itself in the start as an exploration of the ethics involved in creating artificial life. A lot of the early portions of this movie revolve around the debate to whether Morgan is a human being or not. Lee wants to refer to Morgan as an “it,” while the people around her mostly use the more personal pronoun “she.” There is much made of how she is capable of what is at least some facsimile of emotion, and how this should all factor into what is supposed to be a difficult decision for the risk management consultant.
But then, it turns out that the film is playing a different game entirely. This is no philosophical exploration of artificial intelligence. For all of its posturing regarding the heady concepts behind its central figures, it is ultimately more intent on being an action picture. On the one hand, it feels like the film squanders the richness of its premise. On the other, one can’t really deny how thrilling the film can occasionally be. This feels like a case of flawed, underbaked material that becomes pretty watchable thanks to a professional production.
The philosophical dilemma at the heart of this picture is an interesting one, but the arguments don’t seem particularly thoughtful. The characters don’t seem defined enough as people to make them anything more than mouthpieces for stock viewpoints. The film fails to get to an interesting place within the debate, and that makes the sudden turn to action feel somewhat like a relief. In the end, the story still doesn’t make a lot of sense, and the themes are spotty at best, but the action does leave somewhat of an impression. It brutal and intense, and though the camera sticks a little too close at times, one never loses track of what’s going on from frame to frame.
It doesn’t really bring the film to new heights – at best it saves the film from falling into a deeper rhetorical pit. But there is some value to the imagery that the film is able to put together as it transforms into a slick little action thriller. And it provides a new context for a lot of the strange behavior exhibited by these characters. It also helps that the actors are all fairly compelling. There is a natural otherworldliness to Anya Taylor-Joy that is used to great effect here. Kate Mara’s deadpan fully expresses what her character is supposed to be. Rose Leslie’s character is a little ineffectual, but the actress kind of makes it work.
In its final moments, Morgan makes another conceptual shift that provides new context to the events we’ve already. It doesn’t really work. It’s just another odd detail in a movie that already doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But the lapse in logic is a little easier to overlook given the kind of weird, visceral action that the film offers up. It doesn’t acquit the film of its failings, but it does make it all just a little easier to swallow.