|'There's enough within Morgan to make both the film and its director's future worth watching'.|
As a directorial debut, Morgan is caught somewhere between lingering feelings of shameless nepotism (you may have heard of director Luke Scott's father Ridley, who just happens to have a producer credit) and the promise of future potential. Whilst the younger Scott has clearly picked up something of the elder's eye for a pleasing shot - the opening aerial views of a coastline and a bridge cleverly made to appear uncannily alien attest to that - there's also a distinct feeling that his film might lack some of its more impressive attributes if he weren't the son of the man who directed Blade Runner.
For starters, Morgan boasts a cast the average Oscar contender would envy. Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti and Toby Jones are all here among other reliable talents, lending Scott's debut some serious weight in the acting department which you suspect might not be there without his dad's involvement. Whilst it's somewhat frustrating that some of the roles for the big names are little more than extended cameos, the film undoubtedly benefits overall from their presence, with Dr. Shapiro's (Giamatti) appearance in a central scene opposite Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) arguably the film's strongest sequence.
Scott instead leans more heavily on younger, less established players to fill the prominent roles in his debut, a decision which bears mixed results. Twenty-year-old Taylor-Joy, who turned heads with her breakthrough performance in The Witch last year and is nominated for the Rising Star Award at this year's BAFTAs, puts in a comprehensively strong turn combining her already proven ability for unsettling supernatural fare with some impressive action sequences opposite Kate Mara in the lead role. In comparison to Taylor-Joy, however, the rest of Scott's less established cast members are satisfactory at best and struggle to make any sort of impression, although the somewhat hokey dialogue from Seth Owen rarely gives them a great deal to work with.
Owen's ideas are also problematic, in that there's little here which hasn't been done before. The central premise of an outsider testing an artificial human is strongly reminiscent of 2015's Ex Machina, whilst the shady scientific research company behind Morgan feels as though it could be a subsidiary of Weyland-Yutani. But, whilst the script might not be that original, Scott makes it work by injecting mystery and tension in the right places; clandestine allusions to "Helsinki", a prior incident left almost entirely unexplained, work particularly well. The plot become both less interesting and a little too dour during the action-oriented final act - a decision not helped by some irritatingly choppy editing from Scott - but there's enough within Morgan to make both the film and its director's future worth watching.
Morgan was released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 9th January 2017.