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Ruthless and precise, Steven Soderbergh ’s “KIMI” is a timely commentary on isolation and intrusion. Anchored by a striking performance from Zoë Kravitz , it sees the expert craftsman working with genre again, like how he did in “ Side Effects ” and “ Unsane ,” taking a classic concept right out of “ Rear Window ” or “ Blow Out ” and making it current to the era of Covid-19 and Alexa. Some of the final act of David Koepp ’s script gets too far out there, and the whole thing wraps a little tidily for a film that’s largely about how even an agoraphobic can’t actually be alone, but there’s no denying that this is a taut, fun exercise. "KIMI" is a brilliantly paced, no-nonsense gem from one of the best American filmmakers.
The vast majority of the first hour of “KIMI” takes place in one Seattle loft apartment, occupied by the single Angela Childs (Kravitz). She works for a tech company that has a life-changing product called KIMI, which is basically a version of the real-world Alexa or Siri, although this one has some twists I don’t believe Amazon and Apple have considered. The main one is that errors in communication with KIMI are handled and corrected by an actual person. For example, someone asks KIMI to order “kitchen paper” and the tech can’t figure out what that is. Angela listens to all of these soundbites and teaches the technology another phrase for “paper towel.”
Angela also happens to be extremely agoraphobic. A product of the days when no one left their apartments during the pandemic, leaving more people to stare out their windows, she developed a relationship with the handsome guy across the street named Terry ( Byron Bowers ), but she only sees him when she texts him to come over, and she meticulously washes all the sheets when they're done. She can’t even leave to see her mom ( Robin Givens ), shrink ( Emily Kuroda ), or even the dentist ( David Wain ) who thinks she has an abscessed tooth.
One day, Angela is going through her errors and hears something truly disturbing. Behind a wall of music, there’s what sounds like a scream and a struggle. She’s tech-savvy enough to play with the sound and isolate the human element, which leads her down a rabbit hole of increasing mortal danger. Not only has she caught something horrifying recorded on a KIMI, but it’s actually (and, yes, this is a bit of a coincidence that viewers just have to run with) related to the company for which she works, one that wants all of this, including some of the tech secrets of KIMI it could reveal, to go away right now.
What starts as a hyper-focused exercise in confined POV, where we feel Angela’s increasing tension as we are stuck in that loft with her, shifts in the final half-hour to become more of a traditional thriller. Without spoiling, Angela’s investigation takes her into the heart of corporate darkness before "KIMI" circles back and reminds everyone that Koepp wrote “ Panic Room .”
It should be no surprise to anyone who has followed Soderbergh's career to reveal that “KIMI” is as finely crafted as this kind of film can possibly be. Soderbergh glides his camera through the loft in a way that never calls attention to his style but always feels artistically grounded. His framing is always effective, as is the razor-sharp editing he does under the pseudonym Mary Ann Bernard. “KIMI” is such a tight movie, coming in under 90 minutes and without an ounce of narrative fat on its bones. And while Soderbergh himself is the main craftsman here, credit should also go to a propulsive score by the great Cliff Martinez (“ Drive ”).
As for theme, Soderbergh and Koepp are careful to integrate their ideas into the storytelling instead of pausing to convey them. It’s only when one is done with the white-knuckle plotting that they realize that they’ve just seen a story with some interesting things to say about privacy and how dangerous even a non-physical space like tech can be for a woman, even one who never leaves her apartment. You don’t have to leave anymore. There’s someone watching from across the street or listening from a device on your desk.
It helps a great deal to have a fully committed performer like Kravitz, who arguably does her career-best work here. She conveys Angela’s trauma and multiple phobias without leaning on them like crutches. She deftly understands that agoraphobic people aren’t just crying in a corner of their house, finding strength within Angela’s routines in the first half of the film, which makes her commitment more powerful in the second half. Most of all, she gives a beating heart to a movie that could have been very cold and distant.
We’ve seen films about surveillance and voyeurism for generations now, but those very concepts have changed in the new millennium as technology has allowed us access to other people in a way that Alfred Hitchcock could have never imagined. I’m pretty sure he’d make something a lot like “KIMI” if he had.
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Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.
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Zoë Kravitz as Angela Childs
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‘KIMI’ Review: Sure She’s Paranoid, but Something Really Is Out There
Zoë Kravitz stars in the latest from Steven Soderbergh, a story that plays with genre, triggers your anxieties and shreds your nerves.
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By Manohla Dargis
Steven Soderbergh has long been one of cinema’s M.V.P.s, a position that he (happily) shows no signs of relinquishing. Since 2016, after a brief retirement from moviemaking, he has found a new auteurist groove with modest resources, fast shoots, boundless energy and a striking lack of preciosity about the medium. His latest, “KIMI” — his seventh feature in five years — is among his recent best. It’s also only on HBO Max, which is too bad given that Soderbergh makes movies even when he settles for the small screen.
A lean and tense nerve-shredder set in the uneasy now, “KIMI” is a story of survival in the face of rational and irrational fears, those triggered by the pandemic but also by ordinary life. I haven’t felt so seen by a movie in ages, at least until the knives and guns come out. But that’s getting ahead of the tricky, tangled story, which centers on Angela Childs (an excellent Zoë Kravitz), a tech analyst who works out of her sprawling Seattle loft, her eyes either fixed on her multiple screens or gazing through her large pane windows.
The pandemic seems to be waning (hallelujah!), but not for Angela. She has issues, as her telemedicine shrink would agree, most obviously her inability to leave the house. Her concerns are reasonable given the global malady. Yet the depth of her problems, as well as the ritualistic quality of her behaviors — how she moves through her loft and automatically pumps hand sanitizer — suggest that she has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. She makes her bed like a Marine, smoothing the bedding into submission; she also scrubs her teeth and body so forcefully that you wonder if she’s punishing herself.
Angela is one of the mysteries in “KIMI,” which after a smooth, economic warm-up quickly gets its creep on. The weirdness starts with the Alexa-like virtual assistant of the title. The latest in high-tech convenience, KIMI has useful functionality and an innocuous physical design. It looks like a softly squashed, truncated cone; better yet, it sounds like Sigourney Weaver. (It’s voiced by Betsy Brantley, Soderbergh’s ex.) KIMI can answer easy questions and dim the lights without disrupting the flow of life. And KIMI offers the veneer of sympathetic companionship without the bother of other living creatures.
Soderbergh rapidly plots the coordinates of Angela’s life, seamlessly in sync with Kravitz’s precise, sensitively controlled performance and David Koepp’s clever, streamlined script. After an enigmatic prelude, the setting shifts to Angela’s loft, a space that’s at once comfortably intimate and expansive enough that you can’t see all its dark corners at once. Even so, Angela seems at ease and in control, even if the distinctive camerawork — which isn’t always tethered to her P.O.V. — suggests forces beyond her control. Like KIMI, the floaty, drifty (pushy, nosy) camera seems to have a mind of its own.
Angela’s job is to resolve communication bugs in KIMI. She listens to recordings of the software’s botched interactions with users and corrects the glitches, an otherwise uneventful, routinized gig that’s upended when she thinks she hears a violent crime on one recording. She’s shaken, but because Angela is more complex than she first seems, she gets busy. She chases clues, calls in favors. And she reaches out for help from a regular hookup (Byron Bowers), an obstreperous Romanian colleague (Alex Dobrenko) and a supervisor (a perfect, perfectly appalling Rita Wilson). Things get weird, and then they get scary.
If you think you’ve seen this movie, you have and you haven’t. “KIMI” self-consciously draws from an assortment of cinematic referents, including obvious touchstones like “Rear Window” and woman-in-peril-at-home thrillers like “Midnight Lace.” Koepp wrote one of the best contemporary takes on the domestic mousetrap subgenre, “Panic Room,” which was directed by Soderbergh’s buddy David Fincher. A shot of some dropped eyeglasses here reads like a hat tip to a similar image in Fincher’s movie, which in turn nods at Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs,” a far less female-friendly trouble-at-home flick.
As Angela digs into the mystery of the recording, “KIMI” begins shifting into a spookier register. In time, she is forced to leave her apartment, an exit that liberates and terrifies her, and also frees up Soderbergh. (He shot and edited the movie.) Once she actually gets past her front door, her physicality abruptly changes and so does the movie’s visual style. She hunches her shoulders, bows her head and hugs the walls, and the camerawork becomes emphatically expressionistic as Soderbergh pulls out all his tricks, clearly having a blast. The camera swoops and races, and he deploys long shots and canted angles, isolating Angela in the frame as she rushes into a paranoid thriller à la “Blow-Up” and “The Conversation.”
One of the queasy draws of women-in-peril-at-home movies is how they make literal the dangers that can lurk in traditionally feminized, ostensibly safe domestic spaces. Sometimes the threats are familiar and come in the form of husbands and lovers; at other times, the dangers sneak or burst in from outside. One way or another, the damsel is distressed, a figure that “KIMI” revisits through a constellation of ideas about technology, surveillance, control and agency. Angela has effectively barricaded herself in her apartment, yet nevertheless remains tethered to the big, bad, threatening world.
However scary that world and however freaky Angela’s situation, Soderbergh never lets the movie get too heavy. Even as the vibe shifts and the atmosphere grows more ominous, he maintains a lightness of touch and a visual playfulness that keeps the movie securely in the realm of pop pleasure. There’s a lot to enjoy about “KIMI”; I’d watch it a third time just for the delirious 180-degree camera move that bookends it. But I especially love how it turns another staple from classic noir and the paranoid thriller, the (usually) male protagonist who nobody believes, into a woman whose paranoia is as righteous as it is right.
KIMI Rated R for bad technology and violence. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.
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Zoë kravitz in steven soderbergh’s ‘kimi’: film review.
An agoraphobic tech worker stumbles onto evidence of a major felony on a virtual-assistant data stream but hits a wall of obstruction when she tries alerting her company.
By David Rooney
Chief Film Critic
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Full disclosure — nothing makes me dread a review assignment right now like the knowledge that a film shot during the pandemic also uses it as a plot point. But what in lesser hands might have been just another tiresome COVID-19 quickie, locking us into a reality we’re all desperate to escape, becomes a tautly suspenseful nail-biter in Kimi , thanks to tirelessly eclectic director Steven Soderbergh and seasoned screenwriter David Koepp . Lean, mean and enlivened by the filmmakers’ love letter to both Hitchcock and Brian De Palma, this HBO Max premiere riffs knowingly on Rear Window and Blow Out in the age of virtual assistants, all-seeing algorithms, invasive surveillance and snaky tech magnates.
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At a time when Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg’s ambivalence about privacy issues and his ambitious Metaverse plans have cast him in a dubious light, it feels appropriate to make a villain out of a tech conglomerate CEO eyeing a squillion-dollar personal profit from an IPO. And it’s a sly inside joke to cast neo-illusionist Derek DelGaudio in the role of Amygdala Corporation chief Bradley Hasling, taking his company public on the strength of a virtual assistant called Kimi.
Release date : Friday, Feb. 11 Cast : Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Jaime Cavil, Erika Christensen, Derek DelGaudio, Robin Givens, Charles Halford, Devin Ratray, Jacob Vargas, Rita Wilson Director : Steven Soderbergh Screenwriter : David Koepp
In a TV news interview that opens the film — and exemplifies Koepp’s tidy way of dispensing with exposition — we learn that Kimi has the edge over competitors like Siri and Alexa because the AI brain relies on human excellence to resolve issues on data miscommunications. Kimi’s capabilities are always growing.
A tech analyst working for the company, Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) lives alone in a converted Seattle industrial loft. She receives occasional role-play booty calls from Terry (Byron Bowers), a neighbor from across the street, but never leaves her apartment. Angela is agoraphobic, and like Terry, both her mother (Robin Givens) and therapist (Emily Kuroda) — seen only in Zoom calls — are growing impatient with her lack of progress. She acknowledges that while she was improving, COVID has been a setback. The trauma that sparked Angela’s condition is hinted at, though withheld until relatively late in the action.
Terry is not the only neighbor Angela observes across the way. There’s also a creepy-looking guy with a set of binoculars, who appears never to leave his apartment either, and seems far too interested in what’s going on in the surrounding buildings and on the street below. Later revealed to be named Kevin (Devin Ratray), he will play an unexpected role when Angela finds herself in extreme danger.
While reviewing flagged data streams, Angela hears the sounds of someone screaming in distress beneath blaring techno music. Like John Travolta in Blow Out , she breaks down the audio elements and forms a vivid mental picture of a woman (Erika Christensen) experiencing sexual assault. With the help of a flirtatious tech problem-solver in Romania, Darius (Alex Dobrenko), Angela traces the stream to a user and accesses her entire Kimi history, exposing the full extent of nefarious crimes that possibly include premeditated murder and go right to the top of Amygdala.
There’s little sustained mystery in Koepp’s screenplay but considerable ingenuity in the resourcefulness of Angela once she lands in a life-threatening situation and paradoxically turns to Kimi for a way out. Clever touches include making Chekhov’s gun a construction-site nail gun.
Editing under his regular Mary Ann Bernard pseudonym, Soderbergh always excels at pacing, eliminating any flab in a tight feature that runs just a brisk 89 minutes. Likewise his camerawork, as usual signed under the alias Peter Andrews, which maintains visual interest and propels the story with its probing surveillance angles, then nervously tracks Angela once she overcomes her fear enough to step outside her apartment.
That occurs after her attempt to report the data stream discovery to Amygdala’s “organic interpolations” officer, Natalie Chowdhury (Rita Wilson), who insists on a face-to-face meeting to listen to the recordings before involving the FBI. Casting Mrs. Nice Guy Wilson in what’s basically a cameo was an inspired stroke, her naturally reassuring warmth contrasting effectively with the ice in the bureaucrat’s veins.
In short order, Darius informs Angela that the original Kimi recordings have been deleted, and two menacing security thugs (Charles Halford, Jacob Vargas) are hunting her through the labyrinthine hallways and stairwells of the fortress-like office building. But that threat is nothing next to their cold-blooded boss, Rivas (Jaime Cavil), who has a massive cryptocurrency fee to collect.
Kravitz doesn’t find a great deal of tonal variation in her character, though that’s perhaps intentional for a woman consumed by crippling PTSD, a state further heightened by COVID angst, security paranoia and the unrest on the Seattle streets over city ordinances to relocate the homeless population. It’s also significant that Angela is part of the new tech generation more at ease dealing with machines than humans.
This is not major Soderbergh, but it works to the extent it does due to his firm hand at the wheel, persuasively hitching traditional genre tropes to a chillingly contemporary world of insidious technology — which in this case proves helpful. The director’s greatest asset in all this is a dynamite score by Cliff Martinez, its unsettling chordal progressions and jittery flights adding a modern edge to throwback suspense accompaniment.
Distributor: HBO Max Production company: New Line Cinema Cast: Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Jaime Cavil, Erika Christensen, Derek DelGaudio, Robin Givens, Charles Halford, Devin Ratray, Jacob Vargas, Rita Wilson, Emily Kuroda, Alex Dobrenko Director: Steven Soderbergh Screenwriter: David Koepp Producers: Michael Polaire, David Koepp Director of photography: Peter Andrews Production designer: Philip Messina Costume designer: Ellen Mirojnick Music: Cliff Martinez Editor: Mary Ann Bernard Sound designer: Larry Blake Visual effects supervisor: Bruce Jones Casting: Carmen Cuba
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'kimi' is a pandemic-era thriller that's eerily keyed into our current moment.
Zoe Kravitz is an agoraphobic tech worker who stumbles on evidence of a crime in Kimi . HBO Max and Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption
Zoe Kravitz is an agoraphobic tech worker who stumbles on evidence of a crime in Kimi .
There have been countless thrillers about women who shut themselves away in their homes, only to learn that the world inside may be even more terrifying than the one outside. Not all of them are winners; for every '60s classic like Repulsion or Wait Until Dark , there's also a howler like last year's overwrought Hitchcock homage The Woman in the Window . The gripping new movie Kimi is a nifty little addition to the shut-in canon. Like a lot of Steven Soderbergh 's output of late, it's a sleek, low-budget genre exercise that's eerily keyed into our current moment.
The movie takes place sometime mid-pandemic and follows a 30-something woman named Angela, played by a terrific Zoë Kravitz. She works for a large Seattle tech firm that manufactures Kimi, one of those virtual home assistants, like Siri or Alexa, that will dim your lights, play your music and patiently try to answer your every question.
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Angela has a Kimi of her own, which comes in handy since she never leaves her spacious loft apartment. She's agoraphobic, and while she got a handle on her anxiety years earlier, she lost it again during COVID lockdown.
Angela's job is to make Kimi smarter and more user-friendly. She listens to audio streams from customers whose requests Kimi didn't understand — and then writes code that will fix the issue. One day, she hears a disturbing clip of a woman screaming and realizes that Kimi must have somehow recorded a violent crime in progress. But when Angela tries to report her findings to the company, she's given the runaround and told to forget about what she heard. When she doesn't and starts learning more about the victim, who appears to have been brutally murdered, things get unexpectedly hairy.
It's a pleasure to watch Angela turn digital sleuth; Soderbergh is the kind of filmmaker so focused on minutiae that he can wring suspense from shots of typing fingers and blinking cursors. Eventually, Angela is told to come down to the office and meet with a company executive, forcing her to leave her apartment for the first time in months.
Soderbergh and his screenwriter, David Koepp, have structured Kimi as a sly 21st-century riff on classic paranoid thrillers from the 1970s. The fact that Angela is both surveilling and being surveilled harks back to The Conversation , while the sinister corporate conspiracy she uncovers echoes The Parallax View . Paranoia, of course, isn't an inappropriate response to a world where anyone with a smartphone knows that they're being closely tracked.
Kimi packs a lot of ideas into its brisk 89-minute running time about the pervasiveness of digital technologies, especially at a moment when COVID has made us more reliant on them than ever. But the movie also works like gangbusters as a pure thriller, from its outdoor chase sequences shot across downtown Seattle to its squirmingly tense Panic Room finale.
It wouldn't work nearly as well without Kravitz, who makes for an extremely likable protagonist in part because her character has no interest in seeming likable. Angela's anxiety earns your sympathy, and her persistence and resourcefulness earn your respect. But she can also be impatient and inconsiderate of the people in her life, whether it's her mom, whom she argues with on FaceTime, or the love interest who lives in the apartment across the street, in a tip of the hat to Hitchcock's Rear Window .
Angela's only human, in other words, and while most viewers may not share her agoraphobia, many of us can identify with her fears of going out after months of isolation. That's why it's both harrowing and moving when she finally musters the courage to leave home. Soderbergh, who shot and edited the film, uses tilted camera angles and bustling city noises to convey a sense of Angela's disorientation. But as she moves forward, Angela adjusts, and Kimi becomes a story about what it's like to reconnect with the world. That world might be a big, scary place, but it's not necessarily scarier than what's going on indoors, where someone might always be watching — or listening.
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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Kimi’ on HBO Max, a Crisp Steven Soderbergh Thriller Starring Zoe Kravitz as a Tech Wiz on the Run
Where to stream:.
- Kimi (2022)
- Steven Soderbergh
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Hey, remember about a decade ago when Steven Soderbergh was going to “retire” from directing movies? We now may laugh – go ahead: Ha! Ha ha! – at such a silly notion, as HBO Max exclusive Kimi is his seventh film in six years. His diversity as a visual storyteller is nearly unparalleled (Spielberg may be the only similarly prolific director with broader range), as he follows up a goofball lark ( Logan Lucky ) with an iPhone-shot actioner ( Unsane ) with a behind-the-sports drama ( High Flying Bird ) with a political outrage comedy ( The Laundromat ) with an improv chatfest ( Let Them All Talk ) with a period noir ( No Sudden Move ) with Kimi , a concise, linear-for-Soderbergh neo-tech-thriller starring Zoe Kravitz. And all this gets one wondering if Soderbergh has ever truly made a movie that isn’t worth watching at least once.
KIMI : STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Angela Childs’ (Kravitz) Seattle loft apartment is meticulous. She’s very particular about her pillows. She tightens her bedcovers with military rigor. She stationary-cycles rigorously and showers almost as rigorously afterward, scrubbing a little harder than you or I probably would. She brushes her teeth and takes her pills and has a whole routine and you get the sense that she never, ever deviates from it. She habitually hits the sanitizer pump and waggles her hands like a baby seal might, drying them off. She looks out her Rear Window window and eyeballs some of the neighbors through their undraperied windows, and texts her across-the-way friend Terry (Byron Bowers). They agree to meet at the food truck for some breakfast and she gets ready and puts on her COVID mask and unlocks one lock and the second one but pauses on the third one – and has an anxiety attack. She calms herself, walks to the window and watches as Terry realizes he’s being stood up.
Then Angela sits down at her computer to work, resolving communication errors for a smart speaker branded Kimi, created by an Amazonian corp dubbed Amygdala. Her title is kind of silly: voice stream interpreter. You know, when a consumer asks Kimi to order more “kitchen paper” and Kimi doesn’t understand it, it’s Angela’s job to tell the algorithm that “kitchen paper” is the same as “paper towels.” You won’t be surprised to learn that Angela is remarkably efficient at her job. She will resolve all errors in her queue. Even the one that seems like a simple mistaken activation of the speaker, one that another tech might dismiss without much thought. But Angela? To her ear, there’s something going on. So she gets out her audio gear and plugs in some cables and fiddles some knobs and isolates the sounds and hears something disturbing: An angry voice. Cursing. The clamor of violence.
She has to do something about it. She video chats with a Romanian hacker pal (Alex Dobrenko) for some tech advice. She facetimes her mother (Robin Givens) so we can get a little backstory. She calls her landlord to remind him that the noisy renovations upstairs need to cease during specific hours, per their previous agreement. She video chats with her dentist about her throbbing toothache. She calls Terry over; he understands her agoraphobia, but maybe not her cold and abrupt post-coitus dismissal of him, as she changes the sheets while he’s still lying on the bed. She abruptly disconnects from a video chat with her therapist, who wants to talk more about that incident. She eventually absolutely must leave the house to deal with the troubling audio files, which is almost certainly connected to the shady shit we saw the Amygdala CEO (Derek Delgaudio) doing in the movie’s opening scene. Uh oh? Yes, uh oh.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Hitchcock is a clear reference point here, from the apartment-on-high views of Rear Window to the psychological angles of Shadow of a Doubt and Spellbound .
Performance Worth Watching: Kravitz gamely embraces Angela’s complexities: She’s a flawed protagonist, someone who’s surely aware that she needs to work on herself – she can be rude, abrupt and self-involved, and although there’s good reason for that, she’s precariously close to being unlikable. Credit Kravitz for maintaining our sympathies for the character, who’s admirable in her ability to think fast and use her intelligence in the face of her crippling anxieties.
Memorable Dialogue: Kimi’s cool, femme-robotic mantra: “I’m here.”
Sex and Skin: Topless Kravitz; moaning and whatnot as we see her in closeup, face down on the mattress.
Our Take: Kimi is a functionally taut, straightforward genre thriller, albeit with more nuance than we might expect from such things. It’s a character study of sorts, with Kravitz establishing Angela within a highly suspenseful situation that adroitly addresses modern sexual dynamics, the realities of pandemic-era mental health struggles, the politics of authority and the myriad pros and cons of technological omnipresence. One takeaway is, if everyone was as computer-savvy as Angela, we’d be less susceptible to those cons – and in that sense, it’s a horror story without blood or boogeymen.
But there’s a lot more to Kimi than that. The film is set in a city where citizens protest shabby treatment of the homeless population, an age where big-tech corporate bureaucrats exert control and a current moment where distrust of law enforcement has rarely been greater, where the push against patriarchal rule has never been stronger. There’s a three-second pause in the action in which Angela, a Black woman on the run and in danger, stops as she passes two white male cops on the street, then chooses to keep moving. It’s not a throwaway moment or a plot hole, but an acknowledgment of the dynamics of power here in 2022. The movie only gives us a vague idea of what Angela has been through, but it traumatized her, and watching her dig deep and do what she must is inspiring without being overly manipulative.
Soderbergh directs the film with a less-showy method than we might expect from him, but one that fits snugly with the narrative’s careful observations and streamlined plot. Not that it lacks his stylistic touch; it still bears the filmmaker’s stamp, from a virtuoso establishing shot of Angela’s apartment to Cliff Martinez’s contrapuntal score, which mellows as action intensifies. Watching Soderbergh use such precision and economy is invigorating, even when the plot deviates from plausibility in the third act. It’s not airtight, but it’s gut-level satisfying and provocative – and even though those final moments don’t fit snugly with the fastidious visual storytelling that came before it, the movie nevertheless works.
Our Call: Kimi keenly balances its base thrills with thoughtful subject matter, its pragmatism with art. In other words, it’s a true Soderbergh work. STREAM IT.
Will you stream or skip Steven Soderbergh's #KimiMovie on @hbomax ? #SIOSI — Decider (@decider) February 10, 2022
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com .
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‘Kimi’ Review: Zoë Kravitz Excels in Steven Soderbergh’s Thriller for the Age of Isolation
She plays a fragile millennial tech worker who stumbles onto the recording of a murder.
By Owen Gleiberman
Chief Film Critic
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For a couple of decades now, Steven Soderbergh ’s “little” movies — the lo-fi dramas, often quirky thrillers, that he makes as palate cleansers in between his higher profile projects — have been a pleasurably idiosyncratic, off-on-his-own-cloud thing. Some of them are good (like “Bubble” and “Side Effects”), some are meh (like “Haywire”), and one is great (“The Girlfriend Experience”); none of them make much of an impact in the marketplace. Yet you feel the pulse of filmmaking fervor in them. You could say they’re Soderbergh’s protest against blockbusterization, a way of reminding his audience, and maybe himself, that a few simple elements — story, actors, camera angles — can still add up to what a movie is . Only now, at a time of slow-motion crisis in the industry ( will audiences come back to theaters? ) and seriously over-inflated budgets, Soderbergh’s latest little movie, the nimble and sinister cyber-age corporate thriller “ Kimi ,” plays as an object lesson in showing us a way forward. It’s a welcome reminder that less, in the movies, can sometimes be more.
It’s also an art-suspense pastiche that’s clever enough to hook you. More than half the film is set in a spacious, second-floor renovated industrial loft condo in Seattle, where Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz), a waifish millennial in a wavy bob of blue hair, stares out her window, taking in the late-morning sun as she checks out the neighbors in the apartment building across the street (a couple of them look back). She then turns to her computer screen, where she works as a voice-stream interpreter for The Amygdala Corporation, which markets a Siri-like virtual assistant called Kimi.
We know that today’s faceless tech giants — Google, Facebook — don’t just run on algorithms, that there are human intermediaries manipulating the action behind the scenes. Yet how all that operates remains vague (which is part of its monolithic design). Angela, who one worked for Facebook, now has a job that entails listening in on the streams of commands that Kimi receives and steering the app in how it performs. It’s a task she can do from home, and that’s one of several factors that combine to give her an air of agoraphobia. There’s the pandemic. There’s the fact that she’s still recovering from a dark chapter in her past. And there’s her general vibe of hipster standoffishness, which extends to the lawyer in the apartment across the street (Byron Bowers), who she summons on texts for booty calls but is too distant to actually hang out with. On the computer, she talks to her mother (Robin Givens), her shrink (Emily Kuroda), and a vodka-guzzling Romanian tech consultant (Alex Dobrenko) who insists on calling her “Hotness” (explaining that #MeToo is still 50 years away in Romania). “Kimi,” among other things, is a projection of the world-mediated-through-a-screen Covid isolation blues.
Adding to the solitary vibe is that on this particular day, Angela hears a stream that gives her the chills, with threatening noises (a fight, a struggle, maybe a squelched scream) buried under a din of pulsating music. So she scrapes away the other sonic tracks, the better to hear the crime that may have taken place. The dude from Romania provides her with a dummy admin code to tap into the computer the noises came from.
In case you were wondering, yes, we have been here before. Not specifically in a Soderbergh film, but in “The Conversation” (where Gene Hackman played a solitary surveillance snoop who realizes he may have recorded a murder), and in a handful of other cinematic references that Soderbergh does winking homage to: “Blow-Up,” “Rear Window,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” — and, in a funny way, the recycling spirit of Brian De Palma, who’s evoked through the film’s voluptuous old-fashioned musical score, by Cliff Martinez, which sounds like an homage to the Hitchcock/Herrmann homages of Pino Donaggio.
Zoë Kravitz holds the screen with her cool austerity, her impassive façade hinting at heavy anxieties just beneath. When Angela uncovers video footage, through Kimi, of what those noises were, it’s disturbing in the extreme, the way that the homicides in “Michael Clayton” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” were. We see murder in the movies almost every day, but it’s the rare film that’s grounded in the real world enough to remind us that murder is something ordinary people commit. Strung out with fear, Angela is, at long last, driven out of her apartment by the order to share her discovery with the authorities at work, who have promised to call the FBI. The lobby floor of the Amygdala office is out of a technocratic sci-fi movie (the future is here! At least in elevator banks), but it may be less scary than the people she’s reporting to.
“Kimi” marks the first time that Soderbergh has collaborated with the screenwriter David Koepp, who has long been a rock-solid mainstream talent (“Jurassic Park,” “Carlito’s Way,” “Panic Room”), and the essential design of Koepp’s script — everything about it, really — is standard issue: the isolated hacker heroine, the discovery of a crime linked in shadowy ways to corporate malfeasance, her scheme to do an end run around the conspiracy, the whole thing culminating in a last-act action face-off.
So why did I say that “Kimi” shows us a way forward? Because the fun of the movie lies in the modestly budgeted sparkle and foreboding ingenuity of Soderbergh’s direction. He’s become the Samuel Fuller of minimalist indie kicks. His filmmaking joy comes through everywhere — in the way that as the (uncredited) cinematographer, he frames each shot like a sentence in a story; in the hypnotically cryptic exchanges between The Amygdala’s CEO (Derek DelGaudio) and a black-op associate (Jaime Camil); in Rita Wilson’s insinuating small performance as a “reassuring” office manager; in the way that the camera rushes up to Angela like a stalking demon during her existential dash through a Seattle of alienating streets and embracing protesters; and in how a nail gun becomes an immensely satisfying weapon. If we’re going to wind up watching anything in our movie theaters besides Marvel fantasies, we need a return to the spirit of this kind of filmmaking. The kind that can coax thrills out of something human.
Reviewed online, Feb. 7, 2022. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 89 MIN.
- Production: A Warner Bros., HBO Max release of a Warner Bros., New Line Cinema production. Producers: David Koepp, Michael Polaire.
- Crew: Director: Steven Soderbergh. Screenplay: David Koepp. Camera: Peter Andrews. Editor: Mary Ann Bernard. Music: Cliff Martinez.
- With: Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Rita Wilson, Robin Givens, India de Beaufort, Emily Kuroda, Jaime Camil, Alex Dobrenko, Derek DelGaudio, Charles Halford, Jacob Vargas.
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There's a nice mix of comedy and thrills with some great sound design as things escalate from confusion and fear to full-on violent, home invasion attack mode.
Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Dec 16, 2022
In bringing the paranoia thriller into the modern age, Soderbergh and screenwriter David Koepp have also delivered a film with a keen eye in correcting long-damaging cinematic tropes around the portrayal of Autistic characters.
Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Dec 15, 2022
The second half is when the film’s thriller element amps up. It’s also where we see most of Soderbergh’s creativity both with sound and the camera.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 16, 2022
By keeping the film rooted in reality – like incorporating very familiar elements of the COVID-19 pandemic – everything about "KIMI" makes you realize how creepy and terrifying our digital world has become.
Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Jun 27, 2022
The protest/van scene and the “Sabotage” sequence made me yell aloud in excitement.
Full Review | Jun 9, 2022
A long-overdue starring showcase for the bewitching Zoë Kravitz [...] here taking to the solo spotlight with an agile, unfussed air of can’t-be-bought-or-faked cool.
Full Review | May 31, 2022
Zoë Kravitz carries the film, at times without saying a single word. [Full review in Spanish]
Full Review | May 13, 2022
Kimi feels original. [ Full review in Spanish]
Full Review | May 11, 2022
Anyone leery of Big Tech’s data-mining capabilities should probably avoid this film, which frighteningly plays out the implications of a world where the tech in your home (or hand) records your every movement and decision.
Full Review | May 6, 2022
Kimi is very much in the same vein as [Soderbergh's] Sex, Lies and Videotape, The Girlfriend Experience and, especially, Unsane, intimate, fast-paced and drawing out -- and showcasing -- terrific performances.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Apr 14, 2022
An interesting look on our relationship with technology in the pandemic era. Effectively told with its use of lighting and camera work. But leaves something to desire with its premise.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Apr 4, 2022
Pretty familiar under the surface, but references to COVID, and Soderbergh's skilled touch make it a throughly entertaining sit.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Mar 28, 2022
At its best, the film evokes the allure of spaces that offer an illusion of security -- but only at the price of our dependence on technology that has the potential to spy on us, all the time.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Mar 17, 2022
The sub-90 minute thriller offers a searing yet slyly humorous portrayal of the modern technological landscape—as well as the abuses (and negligence) of both state and corporation towards woman victims of sexual assault.
Full Review | Mar 17, 2022
This latest effort doesnt offer much new or exciting in terms of its built-in socially-informed stakes and Soderberg hands over his directorial prowess to a script that demands its unexceptional narrative needs be met over a visual playground.
Full Review | Mar 16, 2022
A timely, tense, and ethically rich high-tech thriller.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Mar 15, 2022
It's kind of an unglamorous spy film, and my favorite parts of it were when Steven Soderbergh was making fun of how people talk online.
Full Review | Mar 11, 2022
Really well-made. If you're a cinema fan, it's a joy to watch...
Full Review | Mar 9, 2022
Kimi, the new thriller from director Steven Soderbergh, is an ordinary genre piece — so ordinary that not even its insistent topicality can make it seem more compelling.
Full Review | Mar 8, 2022
Soderbergh’s artistry is, at this point, all compulsion. His restless need to create is perfect, business-wise, for the age of “content,” less so if one hopes for more.
Full Review | Mar 4, 2022
- The A.V. Club
- The Takeout
- The Inventory
Zoë Kravitz can’t escape big tech’s eyes and ears in Steven Soderbergh’s fun Kimi
Alexa, play an entertainingly dumb techno-thriller.
Paranoia has come a long way since the analog age. Gene Hackman’s professional snoop in The Conversation methodically destroyed his entire apartment searching for a bug he believed had been planted there. Nowadays, we purchase the listening and tracking devices ourselves, in the form of virtual assistants and GPS-equipped smartphones.
While most of us have made our peace with trading some degree of privacy for convenience, those curious about a worst-case scenario—or just seeking some enjoyably implausible excitement—should look no further than Kimi, a new tech-heavy thriller written by David Koepp (very much in his Panic Room mode) and directed by Steven Soderbergh (returning to Unsane territory, minus the fisheye lenses). When this film is over, viewers with voice-activated smart TVs are liable to look around for the long-dormant physical remote.
It’s not as if Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) doesn’t understand exactly how much information these devices vacuum up. A former Facebook content moderator, Angela now works as a “voicestream interpreter” for fictional Amygdala (cutely named after the part of the brain responsible for threat assessment), responding to issues with commands given to an Alexa-style assistant called Kimi. “I’m here!” chirps Kimi (in the voice of Betsy Brantley, Soderbergh’s ex-wife) when summoned, and there’s a very relatable running joke in which it constantly responds, unwanted, to casual mentions of its name during FaceTime conversations. Things get considerably less amusing, however, when one of the streams sent to Angela for analysis turns out to be a snatch of loud music (Massive Attack’s “Inertia Creeps,” another nice touch) beneath which a woman’s scream can be faintly heard.
Apart from a quick prologue, Kimi ’s entire first half is set inside Angela’s cavernous fourth-floor Seattle apartment, from which she’s been working for some time—partly due to the pandemic, perhaps (brace yourself for masks), but mostly because she’s become agoraphobic after having been sexually assaulted. During the initial lockdown, she developed a flirtation with across-the-street neighbor Terry (Byron Bowers), but can’t even bring herself to meet him at the taco truck a few feet below.
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Soderbergh responds to this challenge (itself likely pandemic-related) with cinema’s umpteenth homage to Rear Window , observing Angela monitor Terry from a distance even as another neighbor (Devin Ratray) constantly watches her. The sensation of déjà vu is compounded by Angela’s efforts to extract clearer audio from the recording and determine whether she’s hearing what she thinks she’s hearing, à la John Travolta in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (which was already a riff on Antonioni’s Blow-Up ).
Eventually, however, circumstances force Angela to steel herself and venture outside, at which point Kimi finally kicks into high gear. Soderbergh suggests her off-the-charts anxiety with disorienting angles and cacophonous sound design; unlike the distorted lens he used throughout No Sudden Move , these deliberately jarring formal choices serve a clear purpose (and disappear once no longer needed). The evil corporate conspiracy she’s inadvertently uncovered—thereby making her the target of paid assassins (who at one point attempt to abduct her on the street in broad daylight, right beside a huge crowd of protesters)—is way over the top. But Koepp finds some genuinely chilling notes in the margins. “We take this very seriously,” Amygdala employees keep telling Angela as she reports her concern; the more they repeat it, unprompted, the less reassuring it sounds. And while the film doesn’t draw our attention to the company’s internal data, sharp-eyed viewers will catch the user screen that includes three separate tiers of “purchase interest” (mild, actionable, intense) for items that people have mentioned in Kimi’s earshot.
Still, Kimi isn’t entirely a dystopian cautionary tale. Part of what makes the film’s first half comparatively bland is that Koepp uses that time to plant a bunch of seemingly ordinary and innocuous details that’ll pay off in the home stretch. Without revealing too much, let’s just note for the record that there are circumstances in which it might be quite useful to perform certain actions via voice commands. One moment in particular makes the film’s exclusive presence on HBO Max seem like a shame, as it’s fun to imagine audiences (or at least an audience of a certain age) cheering in response. For all of its legitimate concerns about erosion of privacy in the digital age, Kimi is in many respects no less silly and conspiracy-friendly than Moonfall , imagining Jeff Bezos as Big Brother and Amazon’s entire staff as the Thought Police. For those who prefer clever plotting to F/X spectacle, however, it’s a whole lot easier to swallow.
A pandemic-era tech thriller from the director of contagion..
KIMI debuts on HBO Max on Feb. 10, 2022.
Despite numerous threats of retirement, Steven Soderbergh keeps making new and interesting films, and we’re all the better for it. His latest, KIMI, unfolds in Seattle as society emerges from COVID-19, and it follows an agoraphobic tech worker named Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz), who hasn’t yet readjusted to going outside, but who ends up being put to the test when she discovers digital evidence of a crime. Part pandemic drama, part corporate conspiracy, and entirely entertaining, the tightly wound 90-minute thriller comes courtesy of Panic Room writer David Koepp, though it’s also another intriguing visual experiment from Soderbergh, whose continued tinkering with digital technology has led him here, to a movie about the way we see and experience the world in the age of isolation.
To Childs, her enormous studio apartment is her safe haven. It’s where she exercises, relaxes, and has passionate sex with Terry (Byron Bowers), a man she got to know during lockdown, when they saw each other from their respective windows on opposite sides of the street. She does not, however, leave her front door to accompany Terry on actual dates. She can’t. Her condition won’t let her. It overwhelms her and shortens her breath every time she tries, and it’s complicated even further by the lingering presence of the virus. She is, in a way, stuck in time, unable to re-enter the world alongside her peers. Instead, she spends her days poring through audio recordings from various KIMIs — Alexa-like devices placed in nearly every home — to help fix communication problems between strangers and their tech. Ironically, her own short-tempered communication with the people around her could use some work.
When one of the snippets she reviews appears to capture a violent crime, she begins communicating up the managerial chain of Amygdala Corp, her enormously powerful employers. Instead of immediate help, she’s met with brick wall after brick wall, each painted in carefully PR-crafted language about how her concerns are being taken seriously. At each turn, however, something seems amiss, and Childs gets roped into much more than she bargained for when she finally steps outside, eventually leading to an explosive (if slightly delayed) action climax.
The physical, emotional, and narrative details are laid out expertly from the moment KIMI begins. The single apartment block, where much of the story unfolds, is introduced through characters peering into each other’s homes — a visual reminder of metropolitan lockdown, when urban dwellers grew more accustomed to seeing glimpses of their neighbors’ private routines, and to being seen just as intimately. It’s Hitchock’s Rear Window, only if every character were James Stewart’s L.B. Jeffries, confined to four walls and their own voyeuristic gaze. However, as much as Soderbergh lingers on this eerie physical element of the new world, he takes a similarly discomforting approach to the two-war mirror that is the digital device. Desktops and smartphones show up in spades, but instead of shooting them as surfaces or objects, he captures them the way he would other characters, cutting between similarly framed close ups of Kravitz and her screens. He films them as if they were in conversation with one another, whether Childs is FaceTiming other characters — her therapist (Emily Kuroda), her concerned mother (Robin Givens), or her savvy coworker in Romania (Alex Dobrenko) — or whether she’s simply going through the motions of her job and interacting with software. There’s a constant aesthetic awareness, no matter how subtle, that what Childs is looking at is always, in some way, looking back at her.
What's your favorite Steven Soderbergh movie?
As a tech worker, she’s aware of technology’s omnipresence and she takes appropriate precautions, but this is her “normal” now. Technology is the way she interacts with the world, and each time she puts on her noise-canceling headphones, or fiddles around with an audio switchboard to better hear her recordings, the film’s incisive sound mix follows suit and places us directly in her headspace. I have it on good authority that Soderbergh would prefer people watched KIMI on their TVs rather than on their phones or computers (despite its streaming availability on HBO Max), but watching it with headphones turns Childs’ discovery of the disturbing audio clip into an especially enveloping experience.
Soderbergh, who once again doubles as his own cinematographer and camera operator, is methodical in his crafting of interior scenes. There’s a calmness and stillness to them, interrupted only by Childs’ agoraphobic episodes as she attempts to leave her front door. This procedural visual approach matches Koepp’s screenplay, which carefully builds Childs’ story through a number of unassuming interactions — with neighbors, and with news stories from the outside world — all of which are meant to flesh out the world in which she’s living (or rather, in which she’s not living, given her predicament). However, the script is so taut in its structure that practically every worldbuilding element serves a dual function. Each detail is a sly but important setup for where the story eventually leads, once Childs realizes there may be larger and more sinister forces at play than mere corporate doublespeak. There isn’t a single wasted word or moment of screen time.
This layered approach to the outside world is matched by the way Soderbergh details Childs herself, both in her appearance and in her point of view. Her dyed blue bob-cut is no doubt shorthand for her involvement in the technological space, but she isn’t limited by familiar tropes and ideas. There’s a depth and richness to her that Kravitz manages to slowly unfurl, even when she’s the only person on screen for lengthy stretches. While Childs exhibits plenty of physical comfort behind closed doors (both when she’s alone, and in Terry’s occasional presence), a few subtly obsessive and repetitive actions hint that she’s barely holding together this façade. When she has no choice but to finally step outside — after a woman at corporate, Natalie Chowdhury (Rita Wilson), agrees to help her on the condition that they speak in person — Kravitz’s entire appearance and demeanor undergo a radical transformation. Her movements become more stilted. Her gaze, from behind her mask, is more shifty and paranoid, and she layers herself in baggy clothing, as if trying to shield herself from the outside world.
However, the biggest shift when Childs ventures outdoors comes courtesy of the film’s own visual fabric. Soderbergh, who has been shooting on video since Full Frontal in 2002 (and even shot two recent films on iPhones: Unsane and High-Flying Bird) takes his digital experimentation a step further, and launches an all-out assault on Childs using his camera. It sways, and tilts, and weaves in and out of her orbit as she makes her way from place to place, but it lacks the stability and polish of the interior sequences. It’s janky, and matched by a mischievously jittery score by Cliff Martinez, and it all feels heightened thanks to a lack of motion blur (a technique popularized on film by Saving Private Ryan, which draws attention to artifice and turns movement into a distinctly sensory experience). The exteriors are tighter and more suffocating than any room. The world feels like it’s about to collapse in on Childs, which not only captures her fears of the outside, but her paranoia of digital surveillance, and of always being watched by her environment. The way we see her, in these moments, is not unlike if we were chasing her with a smartphone camera and invading her privacy and personal space. This experimentation isn’t just for the sake of playing with digital cameras. It makes the specter of persecution feel real and tangible, even before there’s any real person on Childs’ tail, and it injects each scene with a riveting intensity.
KIMI is ultimately fun at every step of the way, from its delightfully calculated setups, to its wildly inventive chase scenes that play like an aesthetic malfunction, and place us squarely in Childs’ shoes. The film’s eventual action-packed crescendo is a result of so many callbacks, reversal and payoffs that it plays like a reward for following along, and there are few things more satisfying.
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Review: Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Max thriller ‘Kimi’ is ‘Parallax View’ for the pandemic era
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The key art for “Kimi,” Steven Soderbergh’s nifty new micro-thriller, features a glum-faced, blue-haired young woman in an orange hoodie. You might reasonably conclude that this is Kimi, but no, her name is actually Angela. She works for the tech company that created Kimi, a high-tech virtual assistant that answers its customer’s every request with a bright magenta light and a reassuring “I’m here.” Like Siri or Alexa, but with more sophisticated (Read: Invasive) learning capabilities, Kimi will dim your lights, play your music and even fire up HBO Max, which is where you’ll find this latest fictional dispatch from a world under self-imposed 24-7 surveillance.
Soderbergh drops us into that world with a casualness that’s unnerving precisely because of how unnerving it isn’t; this is how we live now, he and screenwriter David Koepp suggest, with a pandemic outside our windows and the world at our fingertips. Most of “Kimi” unfolds in the spacious Seattle loft that Angela calls home, though we soon see that it has also become her gym, her workspace and her permanent refuge.
Like the heroine of last year’s misbegotten “The Woman in the Window” and many a shut-in protagonist before her, Angela (played by Zoë Kravitz) is agoraphobic, an anxiety disorder she says she’d gotten a handle on until COVID-19 lockdown set in. Now she’s content never to leave her almost entirely Kimi-run apartment, outsourcing menial tasks to an inanimate hub that records her every data point and keeps her under 24-7 digital surveillance.
Soderbergh and Koepp grasp that in a world of Alexas and iPhones, Angela’s condition — the tech addiction, not the agoraphobia — is a near-universal one. But in this case, in a sly nod to “The Conversation,” the surveilled also happens to be doing a little of her own surveilling. As a voice stream interpreter, Angela spends her days listening to audio clips from customers whose requests Kimi didn’t understand, then writes the code that will fix the error, making Kimi a smarter, more user-friendly service. It’s a tedious job, but Angela doesn’t mind tedium. Certainly, it’s preferable to the moment she clicks on an audio stream and surmises, from the sounds of a woman’s terrified screams, that Kimi has recorded evidence of a violent crime in progress.
Angela, stirred by empathy and perhaps something more, tries to report her findings to the company — and then, when she’s instructed to ignore the matter, decides to do a little digging of her own. By this point, we’re fully engrossed; Angela is a computer whiz and a savvy detective, and her sleuthing — with a little extra IT support from a Romanian colleague (an amusing Alex Dobrenko) — exerts its own insidious hold. Soderbergh, shooting and editing under his usual pseudonyms (Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard, respectively), has a gift for satirizing corporate mundanity, and for making everyday minutiae mesmerizing. He can turn typing fingers and blinking cursors into the stuff of quietly engrossing drama.
For the record:
1:22 p.m. Feb. 10, 2022 An earlier version of this review incorrectly credited the score to Randy Miller. Cliff Martinez composed the score; Miller conducted and orchestrated.
He is also, not for the first time, using contemporary technology to riff on great crime movies from an earlier era. The faces of Angela’s across-the-street neighbors (including Byron Bowers and Devin Ratray) bring the inevitable specter of “Rear Window” into view. (Cliff Martinez’s score compounds the Hitchcock vibes with a rich Bernard Herrmann-esque lushness.) But as Angela’s investigation pulls her deeper into the weeds — bringing her into contact with a top executive (a terrific Rita Wilson) whose warm smile offers the opposite of reassurance — “Kimi” begins to take on the paranoid-thriller contours of Alan J. Pakula’s 1974 classic, “The Parallax View.” Those who’ve followed Soderbergh’s recent work may also be reminded of the murderous corporate conspiracy in last year’s “No Sudden Move,” which is set in the 1950s automobile industry. Times and technologies may change, but the banality of capitalist evil never does.
That’s depressing to contemplate, but Soderbergh, an inveterate entertainer even (especially) at his most cynical, also makes it fun to watch. Much of the pleasure of “Kimi,” which compacts a lot of information and ideas into a brisk 89 minutes, comes from the way it repurposes an old-school genre template with up-to-the-minute materials. You may giggle a little as Koepp plants his narrative seeds at the beginning — a rotting tooth, an upstairs construction job, a news bulletin about protests downtown — knowing full well that by the end they’ll come to fruition. And the role that Kimi itself plays in the proceedings — hero, villain or accomplice? — suggests a healthy ambivalence on Soderbergh’s part about the good and the bad of technology’s pervasive reach into our 21st-century lives.
But “Kimi” the movie, much like Kimi the virtual assistant, needs human intelligence to do its job effectively. And it more than finds that intelligence in Kravitz, who makes an enormously likable protagonist, in part because of how uninterested she is in seeming likable. Angela’s fear of the outdoors earns your sympathy, and her diligence and resourcefulness awaken your admiration. But she can also be impatient and rude, subjecting friends, potential lovers and family members (Robin Givens FaceTimes in as Angela’s mom) to her curt demands and quick temper. Some of this may be germane to the character; some of it you may recognize as mid-pandemic irritability, a chronic condition and general social malaise as contagious as COVID-19 itself.
That’s why it’s both harrowing and strangely moving when Angela, stirred by conscience and empathy for a female victim she’ll never meet, finally musters the courage to leave the apartment and spring into action. Her anxiety is overwhelming at first, and as “Kimi” shifts into chase-thriller mode, her bright blue hair, among other things, makes her a conspicuous target. Soderbergh himself stalks Angela with all the formal resources at his disposal, using harsh lighting, tilted angles and loud city noises to put her disorientation into nerve-jangling visual and aural terms. But he also shows us, gradually at first and then with quickening purpose, a world of friendly faces — some masked, some not — that might just be starting to shake off its pandemic limbo.
In these moments, “Kimi” becomes a kind of cautionary tale for the COVID-cautious: The world, it suggests, might be a big and scary place, but it’s a world that we, like Angela, must reconnect with in our own time. After all, it may be no more perilous a place than our own digitally booby-trapped houses and offices, as the movie makes clear with an unduly satisfying finale and perhaps its slyest reference: When someone is always watching or listening, you’re never truly home alone.
Rating: R, for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity Playing: HBO Max, starting Feb. 10 Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
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Justin Chang has been a film critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2016. He is the author of the book “FilmCraft: Editing” and serves as chair of the National Society of Film Critics and secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
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‘KIMI’ review: Check out Zoë Kravitz and a surprisingly sunny Seattle in this tech thriller
Steven Soderbergh’s tech thriller “KIMI,” filmed partly in Seattle last year , is really two movies, and in one of them you see hints of the very good movie “KIMI” could have been. For the first half of its tight 89 minutes, “KIMI” takes place almost entirely in the chic loft apartment of Angela (Zoë Kravitz), a Seattle tech worker whose (rather awful-sounding) remote job is to respond to user complaints about a Siri-like virtual assistant named KIMI. (Ads for KIMI, plastered all over this movie’s Seattle, read “Your Life, Simplified.”) Struggling with anxiety and some trauma in her past, Angela is reluctant to leave her apartment, spending time gazing out the window at the neighbors. Working one day, she thinks she hears evidence of a violent crime on a voice stream, and before you can say “Rear Window,” Angela’s obsessed with the murder that she’s sure she heard.
That’s all in the first half, and Kravitz — who pretty much carries this movie solo — makes for engrossing company. Both smart and bored, Angela needs something to fixate on (other than meticulously making her bed and brushing her teeth), and she becomes animated by the assault that she’s sure she heard. We watch as she consults with co-workers — who don’t share her alarm — and heads down an electronic rabbit hole, efficiently clicking, that gets darker the further she falls.
But what starts off as an appealingly techie twist on Hitchcock too quickly deteriorates into a chase movie, in which we realize that every character except Angela is completely opaque. Seattle looks handsome (if surprisingly sunny) in the movie’s handful of outdoor sequences — I love how at one point the Space Needle peeks out, like it’s waving at us — and Soderbergh does some effectively eerie camera work conveying Angela’s disorientation when she finally ventures out. (As always, he shot the film himself, under his cinematographer pseudonym Peter Andrews. A brief sequence shot on a Sound Transit light rail train feels especially claustrophobic.)
Things fall apart pretty badly at the end, with some violence that felt unnecessarily lurid and some villains who desperately needed a little more backstory. But Kravitz kept me interested until the final frame; her Angela is at once vulnerable, superhuman and amusingly wry. When a colleague on her computer wonders what sort of person would make up a fake life online, Angela’s having none of it. “Literally everybody,” she says.
With Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Jaime Camil, Rita Wilson. Written and directed by Steven Soderbergh. 89 minutes. Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity. Streaming on HBO Max beginning Feb. 11.
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Tech thriller has mental illness, sexual assault, violence.
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What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Kimi is a mystery thriller -- directed by Steven Soderbergh -- set in a contemporary tech world with themes around sexual assault and mental illness. When Angela Childs ( Zoe Kravitz ) uncovers a serious crime while working for a mega tech firm, she is determined to bring the culprits to justice, even though it puts her own life in danger. Audio recordings of a sexual assault are heard repeatedly and blurred footage shows a woman being punched and having her throat slit. There are further instances of violence involving kidnapping, a character being drugged, stabbings, and people being shot dead with nail guns -- including from close range. Angela is living with agoraphobia and other unspecified mental illnesses, which have been heightened by the COVID pandemic. She does strike up a sexual relationship with her neighbor, Terry ( Byron Bowers ), who tries to help her overcome her issues. The two of them are shown having sex and Angela is seen topless as she gets out of bed. Variants of "f--k" are routinely used, along with "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k," and "bitch." The tech company that Angela works for produces a product similar to the voice-controlled smart speakers available in the real world. Other real-life brands are referenced or visible throughout the film.
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For older kids, what's the story.
In KIMI, while working for a Seattle tech firm, Angela Childs ( Zoe Kravitz ) believes she has uncovered a serious crime. But when she brings it to the attention of her employers she finds herself in danger too.
Is It Any Good?
This crime thriller set in the Seattle tech world has all the stylistic hallmarks you'd expect from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh . Kimi looks great with cool warehouse apartments, a contemporary plot line about the technology we bring into our own homes, and a murder mystery. And yet the film fails to gel, feeling every much a sum of two parts. The first half builds on an interesting premise. Kravitz's Angela, a voice stream interpreter -- think the person who ensures Alexa understand's your every command -- suffers with agoraphobia, with her anxieties being heightened by COVID. While doing all she can to avoid leaving her apartment, she uncovers what she believes to be a sexual assault.
Comparisons to Rear Window are clear to see and Angela is both interesting and unusual enough to maintain our attention. However, when it kicks into its second half and becomes a game of cat and mouse -- a bunch of heavies are sent to retrieve key evidence from Angela -- the film's poor script and substandard supporting actors fail to keep up. As for Angela, the characteristics that initially made her an interesting character become sidelined. By the final shot, her mental health issues, which were such an integral part of her character, have seemingly disappeared completely without any real explanation. Throw in a character who by all accounts is a stalker then becoming the hero and any of the film's initial slickness ends up in one icky mess. Kimi looks and sounds like a big budget release -- great cinematography, awesome soundtrack -- but feels very much like a straight to TV movie.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Kimi portrayed Angela's agoraphobia? How did it impact her and those around her? Why is it important that mental illness is portrayed sensitively in films?
Discuss the movie's violence . Did the violent scenes help tell the story in an effective way? Was it shocking or thrilling? Why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
Talk about the strong language used. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
Technology played a key role in the story. What were the positives and negatives in how it was used? How did it reflect how we use technology in our own lives?
How did the movie portray sex ? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- On DVD or streaming : April 12, 2022
- Cast : Zoe Kravitz , Byron Bowers , Jaime Camil
- Director : Steven Soderbergh
- Studios : Warner Bros. , HBO Max
- Genre : Thriller
- Run time : 89 minutes
- MPAA rating : R
- MPAA explanation : violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity
- Last updated : October 8, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Hitchcock masterpiece stars peeping Jimmy Stewart.
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‘KIMI’ Film Review: Zoë Kravitz Uncovers a Secret in Steven Soderbergh’s Brisk, Familiar Thriller
Both the COVID pandemic and our lack of digital privacy make a compelling backdrop for some Hitchcockian plotting
While practically every other filmmaker seems to be pretending that the pandemic never happened, setting their films either before the plague or so far afterward that nobody talks about it anymore, Steven Soderbergh is out there mining the, shall we say, unique circumstances of the last few years for Hitchcockian thrills in “KIMI.”
It’s a low-budget, high-concept thriller that’s refreshingly contemporary on the surface, even though it’s pretty conventional at its core.
Zoë Kravitz stars as Angela Childs, who works for a tech company selling an Alexa-like device called “KIMI.” It works basically the same way all the real voice-activated technology you use does, except whenever it fails to understand a voice command, an actual human being listens to the recording to determine where the mistake was made, and correct KIMI’s programming to prevent future borks .
And if that sounds like a really terrible idea, if only because it’s more of an invasion of privacy than usual (which is already a lot), “KIMI” agrees with you. The plot kicks off when Angela, who’s responsible for correcting that code, overhears what sounds like a violent crime. After some audio scrubbing and not-entirely-legal digital digging, she’s convinced that it’s up to her bosses at the Amygdala Corporation to do the right thing and give all this evidence to the authorities, and definitely not to engage in a deadly corporate cover-up that makes Angela the target.
Yup, that last part sure would be bad. Of course that’s exactly what happens. Making matters worse, Angela is agoraphobic and refuses to leave her apartment, a condition only exacerbated by the recent COVID lockdown, which severely limits her options and makes going to the home office to file a report about as relaxing as an orbital spacewalk in a leaky helmet.
The screenplay by David Koepp (“You Should Have Left”) is a hearty melange of classic and not-so-classic thrillers, with a little bit of “Rear Window,” quite a bit of “Hackers,” and a whole lot of “Blow Up,” “Blow Out,” and “The Conversation.” Angela even has a toothache, just in case you were worried Koepp hadn’t seen “Marathon Man” recently.
But all these clockwork pieces fit reasonably well together, except for the misaligned main cog. The whole plot revolves around the fact that KIMI is easily hackable and not at all secure, and yet the main plot point is that someone knew all that and collected and stored all the evidence on KIMI anyway. That doesn’t just strain credulity; it kinda breaks it. (Never mind the fantasy that simply exposing all this wrongdoing would result in meaningful consequences for the wealthy criminals involved, a familiar storytelling resolution that seems increasingly less plausible with every passing year.)
Fortunately, the rest of “KIMI” has credulity out the gills, and that mostly makes up for any missteps. Using the pandemic as an incidental source of anxiety in a paranoiac thriller adds plausibility to the film. A clever set piece at a police protest is both topical and unexpectedly empowering. Perhaps best and certainly scariest of all, “KIMI” repeatedly explodes the online security theater we so often take for granted, reminding us that Angela — like everyone watching at home — has already voluntarily waived our rights to privacy, and any tech company worth its salt wouldn’t be stymied by our laptop passwords. They already have those. And our personal records. And probably our retinal scans.
The worst one can probably say about “KIMI” is that it’s a formulaic thriller, with few (if any) surprises for the film’s target audience of thriller enthusiasts. But Soderbergh and Koepp strive and mostly succeed at making this old-fashioned potboiler feel modern and relevant. Zoë Kravitz carries the whole movie on capable shoulders, and the brisk 89-minute run time prevents any part of “KIMI” from wearing out its welcome.
It’s a snack of a movie, not so much a full meal, and that’s OK. There’s a lot of energy in this film; more than enough to get you through your afternoon.
“Kimi” premieres Thursday on HBO Max.
7 DAY FREE TRIAL
- DVD & Streaming
- Drama , Thriller
- Zoë Kravitz as Angela Childs; Rita Wilson as Natalie Chowdhury; India de Beaufort as Sharon; Emily Kuroda as Dr. Sarah Burns; Byron Bowers as Terry Hughes; Alex Dobrenko as Darius; Jaime Camil as Antonio Rivas; Jacob Vargas as Glasses Thug; Derek DelGaudio as Bradley Hasling; Erika Christensen as Samantha Gerrity; Devin Ratray as Kevin
Home Release Date
- February 10, 2022
- Steven Soderbergh
Angela Childs never leaves her Seattle apartment. But she always has company.
A troubleshooting tech worker for a startup digital assistant service—called Kimi—Angela spends her workdays listening to other people talk. Her job is to help Kimi do its own job better: When someone asks Kimi something that it doesn’t understand, she interprets. Bit by bit, word by word, Angela and Kimi work together to give Kimi’s customers the best possible service. By the time Kimi’s parent company, Amygdala, goes public, she’ll be everything that Siri and Alexa wish in their digital dreams of sheep they could be.
’Course, that means that Angela has to listen in on a lot of conversations, and most of Kimi’s customers don’t realize someone alive might be eavesdropping.
Then again, some might.
As Angela plows through her screen of Kimi prompts and problems, she stumbles across something unusual: a lot of loud techno music and, faintly, what sounds like someone—a woman—being beaten. A woman crying.
Angela sends the file to her supervisor, who tells her to forget it—especially with the company’s initial public offering just a week away. “Our devices pick up things,” he says. “ Lots of things. Our policy is it’s not our business.”
But a crime? A potential assault? That should be everyone’s business, Angela believes. She knows what it’s like to be assaulted. She knows what it’s like to be ignored. It’s a big reason why Angela doesn’t— can’t —leave her apartment anymore. This isn’t a file she can just delete.
Angela calls in a favor and gets some additional audio from that particular user’s Kimi. She quickly realizes that the user—Samantha—was purposefully using the assistant to record and document encounters with her assailant. But the last recording doesn’t feature the assailant’s voice: It’s the rough audio of a professional murder.
Finally, a tearful Angela finds a sympathetic ear in Amygdala. Natalie Chowdhury promises to take the audio seriously. And if Angela comes in, the two of them can play the audio for the FBI together.
But for that, Angela will have to leave her apartment—to venture into a world filled with threats, both real and imagined.
And perhaps, lurking out there in the streets of Seattle, there’s a threat or two that Angela hasn’t even dared imagine. Not yet.
Let’s give credit to Angela for taking seriously what she hears and trying—unlike a lot of other folks in the film—to do something about it. Certainly, the ticklish issues of privacy are worth considering here. But as many a crime-novel detective might say, no secrets are off limits when it comes to murder.
Angela receives a bit of an assist from an admittedly creepy, binocular-wielding neighbor, too. He ultimately risks his life for a woman he’s never even met (even though he spies on her from afar). Also, a bevy of Seattle citizens—protesting a different issue altogether—refuse to stand aside when some bad guys try to do something bad. In an age where people sometimes simply don’t want to get involved, these bystanders don’t stand by: They act. And in so doing, they help save someone’s life.
While Angela doesn’t go out, she does invite a neighbor, Terry, in. The two have sex (we see movements and hear gasps and groans), and afterward Angela walks around the apartment topless (in panties) in dim light. She puts on a tight top that barely makes things better, and her paramour lies on the bed in his boxers.
She has a couple of admirers, too. One of her coworkers, working in Romania, calls her “hotness” (even though Angela tells him that he could get fired for that). And we learn that Angela’s creepy neighbor has done some research on her.
We see Angela wrapped in a towel (shoulders bared) and, very indistinctly, in the shower itself. Her mother doesn’t approve of how Angela and her apparent boyfriend “met,” by eyeing each other through their apartment windows. “I’m not sure if I approve of you waving in the window like a hooker in Amsterdam,” she says.
Samantha, meanwhile, seems to have had some sort of consensual relationship with her assailant (Brad) before …
… Brad raped Samantha. She accuses him explicitly of rape on a Kimi recording, and we hear Brad apparently beat her, too. When Kimi records the audio of her murder, Angela connects those sounds to images—images that we, the viewer, see on screen (involving a slit neck, some blood and a convenient bag to put the body in).
We hear vaguely about Angela’s assault. But her immediate peril takes center stage. She’s nearly kidnapped, thrown into a black van that she narrowly escapes. (She kicks one of her would-be kidnappers in the face, which helps.)
Three people die via nail gun. (We see one nail embedded in a victim’s forehead. Another victim is shot several times, and we see that one of the nails has skewered his hand.) Two people are stabbed (and we see quite a bit of blood, despite the darkened room in which the violence take place). Someone’s jabbed in the leg with an umbrella—which injects a knock-out chemical in the victim.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear more than 20 f-words and eight s-words. Also on tap: “a–,” “d–k,” “b–ch” and “h—.” God’s name is misused four times (once with “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is abused twice. We also hear one of Kimi’s users call the digital assistant a very crass, juvenile insult.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Angela takes a number of prescription medications, most likely to help her deal with her anxiety. She requests a painkiller from her dentist, hoping to deal with a toothache without going into the office. The dentist refuses.
Angela’s Romanian cohort is drunk during one of their conversations; he does shots as he talks. There’s a passing mention of martinis.
Other Negative Elements
There’s a lot of hypocrisy in play from folks at various levels of the Amygdala organization.
KIMI , the film, has quite a bit on its mind: technology both helpful and harmful; sieve-like tech security; voyeurism, both real and digital; COVID; #MeToo. Those are all elements worth some consideration, and the movie weaves them together in a taught, fast-paced story: The whole film clocks in at under 90 minutes.
Alas, KIMI stuffs a lot of R-rated content into its scant runtime, too, including an extended topless sequence and a parcel of harsh profanities.
The main villain in KIMI will go to almost any length to get away with murder. The film tries to get away with some unfortunate content, too. It’s up to the would-be viewer to decide whether to let it.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
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Review: Steven Soderbergh thriller ‘Kimi’ makes poor use of Zoë Kravitz
“Kimi” was either not worth doing or not worth doing in quite this way, but in either case, it’s a disappointment. It’s directed by Steven Soderbergh , who pretty much only makes good movies, and written by David Koepp (“Jurassic Park,” “War of the Worlds” ), who only writes fun movies, so the odds were unusually favorable going into this one.
The most glaring problem here, and the one hardest to explain, is Soderbergh’s failure to elicit any warmth or charm from Zoë Kravitz , who has been consistently appealing in her every other screen performance, from blockbusters like the “Divergent” series to little independents like “The Road Within.”
Either Soderbergh had a bad idea about the character, or Kravitz had a bad idea that Soderbergh thought was a good idea, but something went seriously wrong, and it kills the first hour of a 90-minute movie.
Kravitz does not play the title character. Kimi is rather a talking virtual assistant, like Alexa or Siri, that is the main feature of a new communications company. Kravitz plays an agoraphobic software designer who is working on refining Kimi.
In a curious decision, Kravitz chooses to make her character entirely unpleasant, nasty to everyone with whom she interacts. Some of this is in the script, but most of it is Kravitz’s doing. She plays this woman as completely ice cold and self-important, such that we lose interest in her fairly quickly.
Perhaps Kravitz (or Soderbergh) took a cue from the fact that this agoraphobe had something terrible happen to her in her past, which makes her wary. But there are plenty of people who’ve endured misfortune, not to mention some very wary, careful people, who don’t take that as license to be biting and superior in every personal contact. To play the role otherwise, in one long sour note, seems based on a superficial understanding of human nature.
The result is that it takes a long time — too long — to get on the character’s side. For example, early in the film, the protagonist tries to leave her apartment, and then panics and doesn’t. But instead of thinking, “Oh, too bad, I hope she overcomes her agoraphobia,” the moment plays more like “Who cares whether she goes out or doesn’t?”
“Kimi” has a simple story, the kind that often makes for smart thrillers. In a case of “The Conversation” meets “Rear Window,” our heroine overhears evidence of a murder, in the course of her listening to recordings made on Kimi. Once she decides to report her findings, first to her bosses and then to the FBI, the action kicks in, and “Kimi” starts to deliver.
Until that point, you might wonder why a director of Soderbergh’s caliber even bothered to direct this. Then by the time you understand and things begin to turn around, the movie is at such a deficit that the best it can do is break even.
Still, this is Soderbergh, so there are nice touches, such as Rita Wilson as a comical corporate phony, and the movie’s incidental use of face masks in all the public scenes.
Soderbergh was the first filmmaker to make a movie about the Great Recession (“The Girlfriend Experience”), and he’s getting in fairly early in depicting life during the pandemic. In the future, that might be the most interesting element in “Kimi.”
L “Kimi”: Action drama. Starring Zoe Kravitz and Rita Wilson. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. (R. 89 minutes.) Available to stream on HBO Max starting on Thursday, Feb. 10.
- Mick LaSalle Follow: Mick LaSalle Mick LaSalle is The San Francisco Chronicle's film critic. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MickLaSalle
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Movie Review – Kimi (2022)
July 10, 2022 by Robert Kojder
Kimi , 2022.
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 [email protected]
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Kimi Review: Technology and the Invasion of Privacy
Steven Soderbergh's Kimi takes on a sinister tone when a tech worker (Zoê Kravitz) discovers a murder.
Technology has become an increasingly important part of everyday lives, even if these devices and programs are not as secure as one may think. In 2021, Facebook revealed that roughly 533 million users had a data breach involving them occur before 2019, one that exposed addresses, phone numbers, locations, and much more to hackers. Facebook, in this case, chose not to inform any of the victims of this breach. This is not the first time a company like Facebook has had a breach like this.
On the other hand, there are some realities from the pandemic that some may not want to ever relive. Endless Zoom interviews, dentist appointments, children and pets barge in view, bosses wear no pants, texting while on therapy and work calls. Mental health and substance abuse became major concerns during the pandemic and not just with adults. Children were also majorly affected by the conditions created by the pandemic, leading to mental health crises unlike anything seen before. Spurred by the impacts of isolation, fear, and anxiety of public spaces, especially crowded ones, was on the rise.
Steven Soderbergh, who won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2000 for his film Traffic , has merged technology and the impacts of the pandemic to direct the movie Kimi for HBO Max. His previous films have been quite good , but Kimi takes his style to an entirely new level. Every shot of this movie builds into something bigger, creating a storyline that shifts from what could be a melodrama into a thriller. In ninety minutes, this tightly woven script morphs into commentary about corporations, technology, and the dark side of being a tech worker at the bottom of the totem pole. Kimi is a modest film that does not need a flashy budget or visual effects; it serves as a reminder about what filmmaking can do with so little.
Zoë Kravitz in the Lead Role
Zoë Kravitz, fresh on her run as Catwoman in 2022’s The Batman , stars in Kimi as Angela Childs . She works for a fictional company called Amygdala Corporation. At Amygdala, Angela is an interpreter for their voice stream system Kimi. Kimi serves as a personal assistant and is eerily reminiscent of Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Angela, a former employee for Facebook, seems content with her job and never leaves her home. Perhaps that would be normal at the peak of the pandemic in Seattle, but as she steps outside into the real world, many people are still on with their daily lives. Many of them are maskless, making this seem like it is just Angela trapped in this world.
There is a lockdown romance between Angela and a man who lives in the building across from her. Her mother disapproves of this when video chatting with Angela. “Did you look at that Turn2Me group,” her mother asks, and Angela rolls her eyes as if everything is fine. But it’s not—Angela is seen taking pills, and when she tries to leave her house, she finds her unable to turn the key and step into the hallway. Even as she sits alone in her spacious Seattle studio at night watching commercials of couples dancing in a kitchen, her loneliness is unable to drive her into action and conquer her agoraphobia.
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But what seems to be a tortured video diary from the COVID-19 pandemic quickly takes a dark turn. One night Angela asks Kimi to play her a music stream. Aggressive techno music begins to play, but hidden dialogue lingers underneath the surface: a woman is being attacked. Angela tells her supervisor, who does not want to get involved in anything that sounds like a crime, which leads her to investigate the case on her own. So begins the commentary on the companies running this show.
Angela has to maneuver through several moments of corporate fluff and PR-related statements, only to find herself at the center of a conspiracy. She was once a regular worker doing her job, but when she stumbles upon this audio, she gets tangled in a lethal game played by higher-ups. Suddenly she is no longer a relatable Millennial software engineer and instead someone placed into a role of great but dangerous significance. There are a few moments to reel the viewer back in with certain issues. Because Angela is a Black woman, she is subjected to being considered mentally ill by her superiors, has her address looked up to by men, and witnesses her white female boss’ performative sympathy.
Kimi is Always Being Watched
Kimi is unique because the vast majority of the movie takes place in Angela’s apartment. For a software engineer living alone in Seattle, her apartment is quite spacious with big windows, allowing anyone the chance to peer in if they wanted to. It is this constant surveillance that adds an enhanced sense of paranoia. Whether it is Kimi affirming that she is there, or a man drinking his coffee while staring out the window each morning, something is always watching or listening. The first time she leaves her house, someone from the apartment across from her even watches with binoculars.
Angela is physically isolated for most of the movie, outside her romantic fling, and whenever she is on a FaceTime call with her mother or chatting with her therapist, the camera cuts back and forth between the two parties involved as if they were both physically present on the screen. The most unsettling part of the movie is how easily privacy is invaded through technology. The movie’s driving force is how Kimi, an inanimate object, was the sole witness to a crime and recorded the audio.
The camera, too, rarely leaves Angela’s scope. Sometimes it shifts into her line of vision, what she sees from outside the window or to another individual trying to track her movements. Because the camera is so tightly wound to Angela’s narrative, the film feels as if it is entering her mindset. The world outside is too bright with too many people and as a higher-up at the company, played by Rita Wilson, suggests that maybe Angela is unstable because she has a history of mental health problems, there is a distinct sense of empathy for her.
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Angela’s job in itself is an invasion of privacy; she sorts through the machine’s audio recordings to try and improve its commands. Angela’s eye scan is taken from her conference calls with her workplace, even though she never consented to this happening, and this notion of consent is taken even further as the movie spirals into a sequence of events unfathomable to the average person. And perhaps this is a trope in cinema, as seen in V is for Vendetta, one recently created where the individual rebel finds a source of injustice and takes it upon themselves to go out and do what they think is right.
Companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple have created assistants that can help you in your daily life. Whether one is using Siri, Alexa, or Google Home, there is a possibility that these devices can be potentially spying on their owners. While they are triggered by a certain word, the device has a microphone to listen for that word being articulated. This feature allows it the opportunity to pick up words and phrases that might be a part of everyday conversations and create targeted ads.
Kimi and Resonating With the Audience
This is where Kimi begins to hit home quite literally. While some of these companies are mentioned by name in passing, a fictional company has been created to be the source of scandal. Kimi is grounded in the contemporary world; the COVID-19 pandemic has not been touched upon yet in the entertainment industry. The film is dated to a very specific era and makes an implicit connection between real-life companies and Amygdala. Even as Angela scoffs at her former job at Facebook, what she experienced there does not amount to what she ends up facing at the Amygdala Corporation.
Kravitz as Angela is wonderful to watch; she embodies this deeply rooted anxiety that lives within the character. As viewers spend so much time with this character, Kravitz does her job well and creates someone accidentally caught in a spider’s web. Almost immediately she is defined as an outsider to the industry she works in. Her blue hair is uncharacteristic of someone expected to be working in tech, and as she steps outside her apartment, her entire anxiety-ridden demeanor hides under baggy clothes.
Kimi is a lesson in simplicity for the movie world. It is not a movie that one would need to see on a big screen, but perfect for the medium it is on: streaming for HBO Max. The film succinctly executes its vision, wrapping up the storyline neatly—although perhaps a little too neatly—in the eighty-ninth minute. Kimi can be streamed on HBO Max starting February 10th, 2022.
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Kimi movie review: Steven Soderbergh’s slick paranoid thriller has a way of sneaking up on you
Kimi movie review: steven soderbergh's hbo max era is shaping up to be one of the most phenomenal filmmaking runs in post-streaming american cinema..
A Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic data analyst who witnesses a murder, director Steven Soderbergh ’s Kimi is like Rear Window meets North by Northwest, but for the post-truth age.
Zoë Kravitz stars as Angela Childs, an employee of a shadowy corporation called Amygdala. Her job is to listen to recordings of user interactions with a Siri-like AI personal assistant called Kimi, and identify glitches in the system that need to be resolved. So, for instance, if a user asks for a particular Taylor Swift song to be played and Kimi is unable to comprehend the request, it’s Angela’s job to retool the code that would enable Kimi to identify the song correctly. You know how, when you call customer service and they inform you that the call might be recorded for internal quality checks? Well, Angela is the person who listens to those conversations.
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She stays by herself in a spectacular Seattle studio apartment, in what seems like the present day, which means she’s lived through at least two Covid-induced lockdowns. And they’ve affected her mental health. A sexual assault survivor, Angela’s condition was exacerbated by the pandemic, leaving her in a position where she’s unable to get out of her house at all. She mostly minds her own business, but isn’t averse to flirting with a man across the street—a prosecutor named Terry—with whom she has developed a casual romantic relationship.
In some deftly-written character work, Angela scolds Terry for not asking to be buzzed into her building before one of their casual hook-ups. And after they’re done, Angela’s immediate reaction is to change the sheets, while Terry is still hanging around and wondering out loud if she’d be interested in going out on an actual date. She wouldn’t. Angela briskly asks the visibly hurt Terry to leave, using piled up work as her excuse to avoid intimacy.
She logs in, her Audio-Technica headphones cancelling out all the noise around her, both literal and otherwise. But after resolving some routine problems, Angela comes across a Kimi recording that will send her down a dark alleyway of deceit and corruption. She hears what she believes is a sexual assault, and after digging around a little more, discovers that the perpetrator subsequently had the victim murdered. She immediately escalates the matter to her superiors, who summon her to the Amygdala offices, where they assure her that the FBI will be present. She plucks up the courage and leaves her house, but little does Angela know that the man she’d inadvertently heard committing the crime has ties to Amygdala. And with an IPO around the corner, the last thing that the company wants is a national scandal.
Shot by Soderbergh himself in a trademark style that is somehow both unfussy and flamboyant, Kimi is a cracking 90-minute paranoid thriller that perfectly captures the unpredictable intensity of pandemic life. After a workmanlike first act that is restricted to Angela’s home—this is, after all, where she is most comfortable—Soderbergh films her outdoor escapades almost entirely in handheld Dutch angles, his jittery digital camera mirroring Angela’s inner nervousness. She understands, over an afternoon, just how powerful the people that she’s decided to blow the whistle on can be.
Aided by writer David Koepp’s lean script, Soderbergh doesn’t pull any punches as he name-checks Amazon, Apple and Facebook in the movie, which is effectively his takedown of tech corporations and their well-documented malpractices. The satire in the film’s second half, when Angela finds that her every move can be predicted by Amygdala based on her digital footprint, is sharp and surprisingly funny. There’s a wickedly insightful bit in which Amygdala hires the services of a random Russian dude to track Angela’s movements around Seattle, and Soderbergh keeps cutting to the man’s mother, who is knitting something on a couch in the same room as him.
Slickly made, crisply paced, and minimalist to the point of being experimental, Kimi marks a hattrick of knockout films that Soderbergh–Let Them All Talk and No Sudden Move are the other two–has made for HBO Max in the last three years. And somehow, each of them has slipped under the radar. Funding the kind of mid-budget adult dramas that nobody seems to be making these days is a noble enterprise, but the streamer better get its act together and tell the world that these movies exist. Otherwise, who knows, Soderbergh might set his sights on HBO Max next.
Kimi Director – Steven Soderbergh Cast – Zoë Kravitz, Rita Wilson, Byron Bowers, Devin Ratray Rating – 4.5/5
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A Art Tv Review
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From Me to You: Kimi ni Todoke 2023 Tv Series Review Trailer Cast Crew
Kimi ni Todoke, the popular shoujo manga and anime series, returns with a third season titled "From Me to You: Kimi ni Todoke" in 2023. Fans of the series are looking forward to the continuation of the heartwarming story of Sawako and her friends. .
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Stars: Oji Suzuka, Sara Minami, Rinka Kumada
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continuation of the story
The manga has already ended, providing plenty of source material for the anime to continue the story. Fans can expect the anime to cover the later arcs of the manga, including the graduation of Sawako and her friends from high school.
Kimi ni Todoke is known for his emotional stories that touch the hearts of viewers. The upcoming season is expected to continue this trend, exploring themes of friendship, love, and self-discovery.
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Overall, From Me to You: Kimi ni Todoke Season 3 is shaping up to be an emotional and beautiful continuation of the beloved anime series. Fans can look forward to seeing more of the heartwarming relationships and captivating storylines that have made the series a favorite among anime fans.
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