Morgan

Director: Luke Scott (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Kate Mara gives a blank performance as a corporate investigator in this wearingly predictable sci-fi thriller.

It’s a curious choice of material for a directorial debut by Luke Scott, who presumably would enjoy being recognised for more than being the son of industry titan, Ridley.

Grappling but never getting to grips with sci-fi’s key theme of sentience, Scott Jnr’s film desperately clings  to the coat tails of his father masterpiece, Blade Runner (1982). For long stretches Morgan feels like an unofficial fan fiction prequel. It is produced by Scott Snr’s production house.

Alex Garland’s debut Ex Machina (2015) covered much of the same ground and is a far superior model.

As the immaculately presented Lee Weathers, Mara arrives at a remote research facility to assess the viability of Morgan as a potential product stream in light of a violent episode.

Morgan is the result of synthetic DNA and nano-bot technology being subjected to an accelerated growth programme. It/she appears to be a teenager yet is really only five years old.

Anya Taylor-Joy endows her dead-eyed and hoodie-wearing character with a suitably sullen teenage malice and is capable of defending herself.

Toby Jones and Michelle Yeoh furrow their brows as scientists while Paul Giamatti arrives to administer a psyche evaluation which is definitely not a Voigt-Kampff test. The scientists regard Morgan as their child and are suspicious of Lee’s motives.

The evil corporate angle is over emphasised and under developed, humourless characters leave us cold and there’s a forgettable soundtrack. Though we’re presented with the occasional arresting visual composition, there’s a lack of ambition in the camera movement.

Despite nicely executed bloodshed and decent stunt work, this is a functional and uninspiring creation lacking the necessary heart and soul.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

The Witch

Director: (2016)

This assured horror story is a devil’s brew of  possession, seduction, flesh pecking gore and creeping menace.

Actors are exposed in the harsh rustic environ, there’s a calm eye for period detail and top marks go to the animal wrangler for harnessing hares, ravens, horses and a black goat to the madness.

Ralph Ineson gives one of many impassioned performances as William, a devout, dirt poor farmer in 17th century New England.

A mostly English cast are encourage to flaunt their native northern accents.

Samuel the baby is snatched, a silver chalice goes missing and the crops start dying.

Anya Taylor-Joy is excellent as William’s eldest daughter Thomasin who suffers the blame and the backlash.

Her burgeoning sexuality is a threat to power of male dominated, city based established church, a theme explored through symbolism as events unfold.

‘Thou’s and ‘thee’s scratch through the script as a screeching score soars over a torrent of confessions and accusation.

Mixing traditional fairytale tropes and contemporary accounts of witchcraft, it makes a virtue of an unsettling mood rather than relying on the vices of cheap scares.