Steven Soderbergh is continually one of our most adventurous filmmakers, he’s an artist who takes chances and one who is consistent in taking on projects that are far removed from his last ones. “KIMI” is the director’s latest, he continues his streak of interesting work.
An extraordinary Zoe Kravitz stars as Angela Childs, she works for a tech company that makes KIMI, a version of our own Alexa. Childs corrects errors within the system, improving the software.
Following to a prior incident (“I was attacked, the police put me on trial.”), Childs is an agoraphobe. She spends her nights and days listening in to people’s conversations via the KIMI app and watching her neighbors, her existence one of loneliness and seclusion, save for her sexual liaisons with a man who lives across the street, Terry (Byron Bowers).
It is hard for Angela to commit to anything more, as her attack scarred her. She only speaks to her mother (Robin Givens) via FaceTime, same goes with her shrink, co-workers, and dentist. Nothing could get her out of the house again, until the night she hears a possible murder and wants to take the evidence to the FBI. Could it be connected to the very company she works for? Is she in danger for bringing it to a higher-up’s attention?
Soderbergh directs the first half of “KIMI” with maestria, he puts his audience into the apartment with Angela, we are as trapped as his main character is. The director builds up a palpable tension around Angela and her self-isolation, even before the thriller aspect of “KIMI” kicks in.
With this new film Soderbergh tackles isolation and voyeurism and throws his hat into the ring with films such as “Blow Out,” “The Conversation” and to a lesser extent,“Rear Window,” each one about a character isolated from society who might have stumbled onto a murder.
David Koepp’s screenplay gets good mileage out of making fun of the Alexa app always turning on every time “her” name is mentioned. Even more so, the film plays on our worries regarding its (and big business/government) intrusion into our personal lives. The film explores how our most personal moments and information can be obtained by so many, and through devious ways that sidestep privacy rights legally. What we do and say when we think we are alone can come back to haunt us.
Almost always his own cinematographer, Soderbergh is extra crafty in his camera stylings, in the film’s first half we are trapped with Angela’s agoraphobia, the shots are still and cold, the camera’s tight framing enhances the mental entrapment of the character.
Once the mystery begins and Angela works up the courage to leave the house and take the recording to the company (and then hopefully the Feds), Soderbergh’s camera begins to move, increasing the tension, scene by scene. As Angela’s situation worsens, the snake-like slithering of the camera intensifies putting the character and the audience on edge.
Cliff Martinez’s score is a blending of Bernard Herrmann and Michael Small, one that recalls Morricone, too. Soderbergh and Martinez use their score wisely, it never dominates, and infuses an eeriness into the film.
“KIMI” is one of Soderbergh’s strongest in a while, a clever, paranoid thriller that would feel right at home in the seventies, but one that is relevant to our Covid-19 existence and in tune with today’s ever-evaporating societal norms. A popcorn movie with teeth.