REVIEW: ‘Kimi’ Hits a Kinetic Stride for Surveillance Thrillers

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Kimi - But Why Tho

You probably watch HBO Max on a device that knows your location or something that you’ve connected to a virtual assistant. To add on, we all know that our phones, smartwatches, and personal home assistants are collecting too much of our data all at once, or we’ve read about how Fitbit data has helped charge murderers. The Steven Soderbergh directed Kimi uses surveillance tech and the companies that own it to tell a simplistic but kinetic thriller starring Zoë Kravitz and features a screenplay from frequent collaborator David Koepp.

Angela is an agoraphobic analyst for Kimi, a product inspired by Alexa (and with a nod to an Amazon lawsuit to boot). Her job requires that she watch customers’ streams of interactions with the home assistant that don’t go as planned. She logs in regional slang to keep Kimi from making mistakes for Southerners who call paper towels “kitchen paper” or to mark vulgarity so that the AI doesn’t repeat inappropriate messages. One day, she hears something violent, and her obsessive behavior pushes her to solve the mystery and wind up in extraordinary danger.

As a protagonist, Kravitz as Angela holds your focus. Kimi showcase the monotony of Angela’s life and the reason behind it by opening with her daily routine. Cycling, working, texting a neighbor, and having a panic attack when she attempts to open her front door. You’re immediately dropped into Angela’s life and it isn’t until halfway through the film that you get any other actors doing more than acting through her screen.

This allows Kravitz to build her character, small personality elements that come together to create a whole person who is shaken by trauma. While we don’t know the full scope, the choice is made to set Kimi in our world – and by that, I mean one where COVID-19 happened. Instead of using COVID-19 as a prop or some moral presentation, the pandemic is a fact of life and one that has helped Angela’s agoraphobia.  While the pandemic isn’t necessarily a large part of Kimi’s plot, Soderbergh and Keopp do give a great example of how to use reality as impact instead of a gimmick and should be applauded.

Kimi excels because Kravitz pushes it forward. Her tenacity in the face of her fear draws you into the mystery as she pieces everything together and you root for her when she gets a chance for a little bit of action. And I do mean a little bit of action, as the final act becomes a completely different story that puts the violence at its center. The pace shifts from an investigative obsession to running for her life.

That said, Kimi’s main fault is that Soderbergh and Keopp don’t add anything with their mentions of trauma or look into isolation and agoraphobia. Both elements are rife for exploration, especially given the extreme vulnerability that Kravitz brings to her character. Instead, Kimi is a vehicle to explore the nightmarish ends that surveillance and capitalism create when they converge. While this works perfectly to keep tension and drive an energetic look at the genre, I can’t help but feel that Soderbergh left too much on the table.

Even for its faults though, Kimi is kinetic. It’s a solid take on surveillance and while there are elements that could use more teeth, what’s there works. Not to mention it also has me extremely excited and in need of more direct-to-streaming Soderbergh titles and Zoë Kravitz-led films in equal measure.

Kimi is streaming now exclusively on HBO Max.


Kimi
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL:DR

Even for its faults though, Kimi is kinetic. It’s a solid take on surveillance and while there are elements that could use more teeth, what’s there works. Not to mention it also has me extremely excited and in need of more direct-to-streaming Soderbergh titles and Zoë Kravitz-led films in equal measure.