Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Starring Zoë Kravitz, Rita Wilson, Byron Bowers, Jaime Camil, Jacob Vargas, Derek DelGaudio, Erika Christensen, Devin Ratray, India de Beaufort, Robin Givens, and Emily Kuroda.
After an agoraphobic tech worker discovers recorded evidence of a violent crime during an ordinary data stream review, Kimi tries reporting it up the chain of command at her company. Met with resistance and bureaucracy, she realizes that in order to get involved she will have to do the thing she fears the most — leave her apartment.
Kimi sees revered filmmaker Steven Soderbergh dipping back into technological thrillers (for example, Unsane was shot entirely on an iPhone) with a signature style for paranoia and suspense that, if you are like me and fire the movie up knowing nothing about it, there’s almost no question he is behind the camera. The only thing holding back the suspicion is David Koepp’s weak script that trots out everything from agoraphobia to sexual abuse to PTSD to Seattle protests advocating for the homeless to corporate coverups into a blender that services the central mystery at hand, but at the expense of doing anything remotely worthwhile in terms of themes and characters. On the flip side, it’s easy to see why Steven Soderbergh would be attracted to such a screenplay, but even directing the hell out of this, its refreshingly fascinating gimmick is both underutilized and not enough to overcome the narrative’s more derivative and distasteful aspects.
This technological device is essentially a stand-in for Alexa or Google devices (not used name considering crimes are heard and recorded on their behalf, while the company itself is involved in highly shady practices), with agoraphobic protagonist Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) working tech support from home. Her job consists of working through stream data communication errors between user and device, writing code to resolve the mistake, ensuring it doesn’t happen again (an early quick fix sees Angela adjusting and adding slang terms). Like most elements of Kimi involving the titular device, simply watching Angela make these corrections is unique and entertaining in itself.
Angela’s agoraphobic state of mind is less compelling, which plays into broad stereotypes and an offputting sense of dishonesty in the writing. Even Zoë Kravitz, who is terrific in the role otherwise, is reduced to playing up tics that overpower the rest of a distinctively challenging performance (whether it be from slowly getting wrapped up in conspiracy or messing with soundboards for clear audio or hacking into personal devices with a good reason for assuming someone is in trouble). At times, it feels like agoraphobia is a half-assed solution for getting around COVID filming restrictions (which has a minimalistic presence here); easier to shoot if the protagonist can spend half the movie inside an apartment. She is also struggling to maintain a relationship with the lawyer across the street (Byron Bowers), adamantly against visiting the dentist (preferring painkillers instead), and shrugs off online mental therapy sessions.
All of these elements come across as parts to a character that never coalesces into something insightful (the juxtaposition of being terrified to leave the house, only to do so and be assisted by people fighting for the homeless is one of many empty connections); Kimi, at its core, is a story of shoving someone through a different kind of traumatic experience as a means of reawakening their life. Such an experience involves hearing something along the lines of rape and murder on one of those tech-support audio files, sending her down a rabbit hole of personal interference since the company doesn’t seem too concerned. With that said, this subtle destruction of the illusion of privacy coming from such devices and Angela taking matters into her own hands opens up the only compelling dialogue to be had here.
It’s also not until the third act that both script and direction find the same wavelength, with Angela using voice commands to give her the upper hand while in danger. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds and something Kimi could have used more of, considering the bare-bones narrative. Unsurprisingly, the thriller aspect is competently crafted (there’s an attempted kidnapping in broad daylight that is intensely framed and shot), with chimes making for an unusual dreamy soundscape that nonetheless fits Angela’s character as she eventually ventures out into Seattle to deliver justice. There’s also reason to believe that Steven Soderbergh and David Koepp themselves know this material is thin and can only go so far, keeping the proceedings under 90 minutes. Kimi is engaging enough not to have your own voice device turn the movie off, but there’s plenty of untapped potential along the way.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com