- Nate Adams
'Kimi' review: Zoë Kravitz is on the run in Steven Soderbergh's taunt tech thriller
Courtesy of HBO Max
Hardly anyone is making movies as efficiently and routinely as Steven Soderbergh considering the Oscar winner averages two movies a year and shows no signs of stopping (remember when he was supposed to retire?). Some could argue it’s a crutch and diminishes the quality of his films, but it gives movies, like his latest: “Kimi,” a guerrilla and frenetic style that brim with urgency. “Kimi” is a taunt psychological thriller taking aim at the tech giants of the world, specifically Amazon and their Alexa device, but with a fun twist. We’ve all sat and wondered if electronics sitting on coffee tables or inside jean pockets could hear and record everything we’re saying-there isn’t a soul on earth who actually reads the terms and conditions before clicking accept, something Soderbergh alludes to here-and “Kimi” playfully toys with those conventions as it sends its main character on a race-against-the-clock journey to unravel a startling mystery.
Written by David Koepp, Zoë Kravitz plays Angela Childs, an agoraphobe who hasn’t set foot in the real world since the COVID pandemic begun and has learned to get all the nourishments, including quick sex with her across the street neighbor, delivered right to her door. She works for the shady Amygdala corporation, a company about to publish an IPO based on the strength of its primary product: Kimi, as a “streamer” which is basically a surveillance tech listening to private and sometimes intimate conversations and course correcting bugs in the system. For example, if someone were to shout a slang term for a male erection and Kimi couldn’t understand the differentiation, Angela updates the files to keep the Alexa-esq product in knowledgeable shape. While Alexa is built on several different algorithms, Kimi is run by a small army of interpreters so the device can better adapt to its users. It also poses several ethical conundrums I’m sure Jeff Bezos has dealt with numerous times, but Soderbergh is smarter than that and knows we’re being spied on 24/7.
Angela is thrown for a loop when she hears what sounds like a brutal murder during a late-night stream session and her attempts to report the findings are met with receptionists saying: “We take these matters very seriously.” But with the company on the verge of major profitability, they can’t have Angela spilling the truth to whoever will listen and the corporation (run by Derek DelGuadio who you might remember from the outstanding Hulu special “In & Of Itself”) sends two goons to silence their whistleblower.
Soderbergh is always ahead of the game when it comes to the stories he wants to tell, practically foreshadowing the pandemic with the 2011 stunner “Contagion,” so it’s no surprise “Kimi” feels as relevant as it does and Kravitz is the perfect muse for his vehicle. Watching Angela overcome her anxieties in the outside world and standing face-to-face with a company that would literally kill to keep her quiet also proves a satisfying 90-minute exercise. “Kimi” might lose momentum heading into the final stretch (Soderbergh doesn’t always stick the landing) but the message remains: the call is coming from inside the house. It’s just a matter of who’s listening.
KIMI debuts on HBO MAX Thursday, February 10th