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Morgan (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

MORGAN (2016)

Starring: Kate Mara, Anna Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Yare, Toby Jones

Written By: Seth W. Owen

Directed By: Luke Scott

The Shot

A simple, almost understated thriller built on a very basic premise propped up by significant atmosphere, Morgan is one of my favorite films of 2016.  It doesn’t reinvent the wheel because it doesn’t need to; just sit back and enjoy the slow burn thrill ride.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


A classic worth thinking about.

Pairs Well With...


The rocks wake it up; otherwise, why mess with what works?

“Do you know the cruelest thing you can do to someone you’ve locked in a room?  Press their face to the window.”

What is human?  At what level of alteration and/or manipulation does a genetically engineered individual cease to retain the right to be called human and instead be simply called a “subject,” if ever?

And what if “the subject” doesn’t like the answer that the engineers or their masters come up with?

That is one of many modern iterations of the classic “Frankenstein Problem” that has been a favorite of speculative cinema from its earliest days, and – ostensibly at least – the heart of the story of Morgan, easily one of my favorite films from 2016.  (Why “ostensibly,” you ask?  Because “spoilers,” I answer.)

On the outside, Morgan (Anna Taylor-Joy) looks like a typical adolescent girl, complete with emo hoodie.  She is, however, anything but typical; rather, she’s a genetically engineered specimen aged at twice the normal rate and designed from birth to be the ultimate assassin… even though the sheltered academics raising her in isolation have come to think of her as a regular kid and are trying to treat her as such.  But as the old saying goes, it’s only fun until someone loses an eye, so when Morgan flies into a sudden rage and severely harms one of her caretakers, the Corporate Suits decide to send someone from  Risk Management (Kate Mara, in an outstanding performance) to assess whether or not it’s time to terminate the project… and its subject.

From the beginning, Morgan seems like it will be a very basic formula thriller, and indeed, for a while, it is.  The frame is classic, the setup straightforward, and the early going plays out as relatively vanilla paint-by-numbers stuff.  And that’s all fine, because it’s propped up by a well-crafted atmosphere that manages to be simultaneously understated and almost a character unto itself, not unlike something one might experience while watching an old Hammer or API film from back during the golden age of those venerable studios.  Something is afoot, and of course it has to be Morgan, because if this genre has trained audiences about anything at all it’s that the artificially engineered killer is going to go insane, it’s just a matter of when…


There is a scene with Paul Giamatti as a self-proclaimed psychological expert who clearly got his credentials from a Crackerjack box.  It is a major plot lever and the marketing folks decided to overshare by sticking it in the trailer.  Taken at face value, this scene is ridiculous; any sane person would know its inevitable result and never allow Giamatti’s “expert” on the property.  This bothered me for a long time, but it bothers me less the more I think of it.  It was the jarring moment in the atmosphere; the shift of the clutch.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t see the ultimate twist of Morgan coming well before it happened or even before the first real hint came down, but I don’t consider that an issue.  I guessed because I’ve seen a zillion of these and this one plays so well that I read around it, and regardless of anything, the twist works, and it works beautifully.  What’s more, it plays in a precise, methodical manner that is in keeping with everything that’s come before, so the newly minted bloody violence doesn’t feel like an out of place assault on the senses (which, to be honest, is what I feared might happen going in, modern times being what they are).

A visible twist, maybe, but oh-so-satisfying none the less as the slow burn finishes searing things to perfection on just the right note. 

And so, overlooked though it may have been in general, I found Morgan to be one of the more enjoyable gems of the 2016 moviegoing season.  The one good thing about it being overlooked, however, is that such things usually translate into more reasonable pricing on the home video market, and I consider Morgan to be a flick that is definitely worth owning.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, December, 2016

This review was written in my favorite coffee shop on Earth, Mill Valley, California.

More From The Bar! | Ex Machina | Species II | Bride of Frankenstein |

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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