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Morgan

Year: 2016
Production Co: Scott Free Productions
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Luke Scott
Producer: Ridley Scott
Writer: Seth W Owen
Cast: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Cox

In a universe where Ex Machina hadn't laid down an effortless new aesthetic for AI robot thrillers, a million Promethean nightmares hadn't come before it and the casting had been much better, this sci-fi horror effort from Luke Scott (son of Ridley) might have been a much better movie.

The first major problem is one that's inherent to any film in the genre of computers or robots gaining sentience and turning on humanity. From 1931's Frankenstein to 2009's Splice, every movie must have a climax, and the only possible climax in a movie about science threatening to go too far is that it does so, leaving the humans running from the genetically mutated monster/irradiated animal grown to enormous size/AI robot who decides it wants to be free/etc while it hunts down and kills them.

It very quickly repositions any story in the genre as a straight chase thriller, the bloodthirsty or dangerous antagonist indivisible from countless villains that came before it.

Corporate risk management expert Lee (a badly miscast Kate Mara, trying to be cool as ice but – with her preternaturally girlish looks – seeming more like a tween playing dress-ups with her mother's power suits) is sent to a research facility in the forest to ascertain the progress of a robotics experiment.

The subject of the study, Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy of The Witch) is a robot everybody around her treats and thinks of as a girl on the cusp of her teens.

In a shocking first scene, she's set upon one of the researchers (Jennifer Jason Leigh), going berserk and stabbing her in the eye with a knife, the first of many unexpected and violent reactions she seems genuinely sorry for. Is she capable of something as human as regret, or is it just a machine running self-preservation algorithms to fool everyone?

That's what Lee's there to find out, and after talking to the very cagey and defensive staff and several allusions to a similar project going badly south in another facility, Lee meets the titular android.

With Morgan's skin covered in an artificial sheen, her face mostly hidden behind the cowl of a hoodie, her rigid posture and stiffly formal way of speaking, it's a mystery why everyone around her thinks of her as a real girl. They've tried to acclimatise her to human life by taking her outside into the forest and promising her a visit to a beautiful lake, but Morgan lives in a locked chamber, her habits and routines strictly controlled.

The film follows a path you've seen countless times where everyone involved starts to question what's really human (complete with one misguided soul who believes in that humanity too much and will pay for it) as the danger and threat mounts.

When it bursts free Morgan once again devolves into a generic chase movie, and if you've seen more than four movies in the last decade, you'll guess the twist ending way before the script apparently wants you to realise it.

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