“And trust me, I know bad: I used to moderate for Facebook.”Angela Childs
Steven Soderbergh’s post-lockdown thriller is beautifully shot and frequently tense, though its increasingly implausible third act loses its way. An agoraphobic protagonist is a smart way cheaply to accommodate COVID restrictions, with many scenes consisting of just a single actor communicating with others by voice or videocall. Coupled with Soderbergh’s tendency to act as his own cinematographer and editor, it presumably enabled a rapid shooting schedule with a small crew. The premise is that Angela, a low-level employee working on a voice assistant smart speaker (“Kimi” standing in for Siri/Alexa), hears a user recording that appears to capture a murder, something that the company would prefer to ignore. Kimi draws considerable inspiration from Hitchcock’s masterful Rear Window, designed around similar constraints, paying homage through frequent shots peering into the windows of the apartments opposite. The film makes passing criticism of Big Tech’s casual disregard for privacy and informed consent, as well as the danger of widespread surveillance, but for the most part technology acts merely as a plot device. Zoë Kravitz imbues Angela with both steely determination and vulnerable anxiety, compelling enough to command attention when she is the only character on screen for extended stretches. Aside from Angela’s vibrant blue hair and the pink glow of Kimi’s light ring, the apartment is softly lit in warm and invitingly subdued hues, contrasting the harsh brightness of the outside world. Kimi is a fine example of a trimmed down thriller with efficient storytelling, the type of mid-budget filmmaking that is becoming increasingly rare, though perhaps a rich vein for streaming services to mine in future.