There has been an accident at this top secret research laboratory, situated out in the middle of the countryside in a large mansion house, and the corporation that has been in charge of the programme has dispatched a risk assessment officer, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), to find out what went wrong. And more importantly, whether it is worth continuing with the research when there is a possibility it could go so wrong, even to the point of harming human life, not the best state of affairs for a working environment. But the programme is not a machine, or a new drug, it is a person: Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), short for "modified organism", a person grown in the lab as a new form of life...
It turns out audiences had had their fill of movies concerning science gone horribly wrong when this was released, for despite a starry cast it underperformed drastically at the box office when it came across as cold and unappealing. Much like Lee herself, who is a very no-nonsense, just the facts personality, and not much of a hook to hang the story around until you were privy to the reason why she has become so ruthlessly efficient in her job, by which time it was too late to engage much interest. It was the debut feature from Luke Scott, who like his sister was given the chance to helm a film by their father after some time spent assisting in his productions, he being Ridley Scott, again pursuing his interest in science fiction.
Ridley Scott had increasingly turned to the realms of fantastique as his career had reached its autumn years, both as producer and director, and this was very much in that vein of efforts that preferred to take a high concept in that arena, one that had been much explored by classic authors in the genre, and deliver an entertainment constructed around it. But that was part of the trouble, we had seen it all before, and there was absolutely no surprise in Morgan the character's behaviour once the plot drew closer to its denouement since she was simply doing what umpteen artificial lifeforms had done for decades in the format: go berserk when she cannot understand this humanity ordering her about, refusing to comply with her creators.
It was there in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, this punishment of mankind for meddling in God Almighty's domain, and here for the umpteenth time it was again, no matter that Morgan's overseers are a kindly bunch often played by famous faces, as if no matter how well-intentioned you were, crafting an artificial intelligence was always going to turn around and bite you. What she has done as the film opens is attack one of her handlers (Jennifer Jason Leigh, hardly in this), and now Lee must divine if this will happen again or if Morgan will behave herself from now on - perhaps, though this is barely admitted to the boffins, see if this propensity for violence could be harnessed for a use in the outside world, probably military in purpose. The point appeared to be that a bad upbringing will have bad repercussions.
After all, Morgan has been confined to what amounts to a cell where she may get to play her music and play her games, but it's a limited existence that one so aspiring to be human will feel thwarted by. Cue many scenes reminiscent of Will Graham's conversations with Hannibal Lector in Michael Mann's Manhunter (Brian Cox showed up in a tiny role, too) where characters interrogate Morgan to find out where she has gone wrong, Paul Giamatti's investigator the prime idiot who pushes her over the edge after insisting on meeting with her without the clear Perspex barrier between them. After that, robogirl cut a swathe through the cast as she tried to attain her freedom, curiously similar to the much-maligned (and admittedly ridiculous) Species II as she notably manages to drive a car at one point. This was all building to a twist that you may or may not see coming, but if you didn't it still was a letdown as it threw the potential for philosophical questions away in favour of bloodshed and pessimism without sufficient purpose. Luke Scott showed promise, it was well enough delivered, but my it was hackneyed. Music by Max Richter.