From New Line Cinema comes Kimi, the newest craze that is smarter and more intuitive than Siri or Alexa. Kimi has no algorithm behind it trying to decipher what one says to it; rather, a staff comprised of actual people work hard behind the scenes to analyze “miscommunications.” After correcting each error, Kimi becomes smarter and more connected to the user than it was previously. Zoe Kravitz (The Batman, Divergent, Mad Max: Fury Road) fills the agoraphobic shoes of “voice stream interpreter” Angela Childs, who has the unenviable task of sifting through user qualms. Leave it to intuitive filmmaker Stephen Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Contagion, Ocean’s Eleven) to spin a decidedly modern thriller, with the help of Panic Room, Stir of Echoes, and Secret Window scribe David Koepp. For thriller genre fans, Kimi is a solid entry featuring a talented cast and pulse-pounding suspense.
Angela has never met a “miscommunication” she cannot clear—until now. Normally, Angela’s job deals with resolving questionable issues, expanding Kimi’s knowledge in the process. Angela hears a type of screaming or crying drowned out by music on one of the streams; suspecting sexual assault, Angela immediately drafts up an email of concern. Dubbing it a potential sexual assault, Angela submits the transgression as “an urgent crime and safety video recorded on a Kimi stream.” Almost immediately, Angela is urged to drop it all. Could it be a possible conspiracy, or just an eerie mystery?
If I had to compare Kimi to just one other movie, Netflix’s The Woman in the Window comes to mind. Placing an emotionally damaged, agoraphobic female character at the forefront, both women fall down a rabbit hole of paranoia and obsession. The majority of those around them think they are crazy, and everyone else is too distracted to care. Angela ends up being a badass female character convinced she is just at arm’s reach of deadly secrets no one else will believe. No matter how hard Angela tries, she cannot manage to get people on her side. Tension is built well, particularly barreling towards the climax.
What keeps Kimi feeling fresh is Soderbergh’s approach. He is able to realistically portray the frantic and uncomfortable feeling of anxiety though filming technique. Angela’s character is smartly-written, but Kravitz’s subtle turn as an emotionally-frazzled shut-in breaths her to vibrant life. Filmed during the Covid pandemic, Kimi comments on the disconnected nature of our world and feeling trapped in the space of one’s own home.
Kimi may not reinvent the wheel, but a sharp script, likable lead, and expert filmmaking eye accomplish the job quite nicely. HBO Max feels like a great place for this type of movie to find an audience, existing in that space between perfect popcorn entertainment and jaw-dropping surprise. Whichever side of the fence one may fall on, there is no doubt in my mind that Kimi is another stellar notch in Stephen Soderbergh’s filmography.
Kimi attempts to resolve its miscommunications when it debuts exclusively on HBO Max on Thursday, February 10th.