Probably reaching the ideal for what a pandemic movie can be, Steven Soderbergh’s Kimi is engaging, well-crafted, and features a great performance from Zoë Kravitz.
Kravitz stars as Angela Childs, an employee of the Amygdala tech corporation. Angela works from home monitoring incoming data streams from the Amygdala’s Kimi device and makes corrections to optimize the software. Angela suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia due to a previous assault as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Her only human contact is her neighbor Terry (Byron Bowers), who she texts and has occasional sex with.
One day, while reviewing her streams, Angela receives a recording which seemingly depicts a violent sexual assault. When she attempts to go through her superior for help, she is told to delete the stream and move on. She enlists the help of her Romanian counterpart Darius (Alex Dobrenko) to dive deeper and uncover the truth about what she heard.
Reminiscent of Rear Window, much of the film takes place within the confines of Angela’s apartment. Despite this, the action never feels claustrophobic, but instead becomes much more suffocating as soon as Angela eventually goes outside. While her anxiety and agoraphobia may not make sense to the audience, her actions and feelings are completely justified when put into context.
The character of Angela is not some warrior woman who defeats the world with overwhelming strength. Instead, Angela is resourceful and acts on instinct and intelligence. When things feel out of place, she doesn’t wait. Her actions are based on the reactions or the lack-of-action of the people around her. She never takes things lightly, and her paranoia eventually turns out to be justified.
Kravitz is in almost every scene and holds the camera’s attention at every turn. With her down-turned eyes and bright blue hair, she may seem like the outgoing alternative new-age woman, but her introversion is still on full display. Kravitz approaches every scene with confidence but never bombast. Even her physicality, which is never put on display like an action movie, is correctly chosen. I challenge you to put on hand sanitizer the same way after viewing the film.
Bowers does enough to endear himself to the audience, but not enough to know he is just a piece of the puzzle. Rita Wilson also shows up and has a standout scene as a patronizing corporate executive. Other small but memorable cameos include Andy Daly, Erika Christensen, David Wain, and Robin Givens. Betsy Brantley provides the perfect voice to complement the Kimi device.
Soderbergh has never been pidgeon-holed as a genre filmmaker, but his indie sensibilities compliment the film well. Writer David Koepp keeps the action suitably grounded with just enough ridiculous to have it be fun without turning tendious.
At a swift 89 minutes, Soderbergh and Kravitz elevate Kimi above the usual drudge of early year releases. Sometimes, all you need is a memorable premise, a talented actor, and a filmmaker who knows what they are doing. Less can be more.
Kimi is currently streaming on HBOMax