Powerful Kravitz Anchors Soderbergh’s Thrilling Kimi
Angela (Zoë Kravitz) isn’t much of a people person. She’s a tech worker living in Seattle who analyzes audio errors for her company’s top product, “KIMI,” a digital home assistant in the vein of Amazon’s Alexa or a Google Assistant. Since she’s a bit agoraphobic, COVID-19 lockdowns have only acerbated her situation, so much so that she can’t even leave her apartment to share a breakfast sandwich with the sexy lawyer (Byron Bowers) who lives across the street, with whom she has an on-again, off-again relationship.
While analyzing audio streams, the young woman runs across one she believes contains sounds of a sexual assault. Researching things further, Angela uncovers an unthinkable crime, one that could rock the foundations of the very company she works for. She immediately becomes the target of some shady figures who’d rather this information not go public, and they’re willing to take lethal action to ensure her silence.
Director Steven Soderbergh and writer David Koepp join forces for the intense, fast-moving thriller Kimi, and the results are exactly what I’d hoped for. Like a visceral mishmash of the latter’s goofily entertaining bicycle messenger gem Premium Rush and the former’s playfully superb Haywire, this is a well-paced jolt of adrenaline that remembers to put character first, all without skimping on a single ounce of suspense.
Kravitz is excellent. The young actor commands the screen, building Angela’s character with nervy precision. So much of who this woman is and what she has already endured in her life is kept close to the vest, with only snippets of her backstory sporadically revealed. Kravitz brings a jittery physical intensity to her performance that’s augmented by an emotional complexity I found mesmerizing. It’s spectacular work.
The topical aspects don’t work quite as well as Soderbergh and Koepp probably intended. There’s something to be said about these personal assistants invading every aspect of our day-to-day lives, potentially recording what’s happening in our households — whether we’ve given them permission to do so or not. There is an attempt to say something about how privacy is an illusion that has evaporated almost entirely, with the full participation of society at large, but those ideas remain too ephemerally nondescript to register with the horrifying authority they deserve.
That this ends up not being a problem is hardly shocking. Soderbergh is a master at generating suspense, and once the clock begins ticking and Angela realizes her life is in danger, my pulse started racing and my heart instantaneously jumped into my throat. Without any big set pieces and with precious little action, the director pulls off his Hitchcockian game of subterfuge, misdirection, and chaos with superlative ease. The last 30 minutes crackle with continuous electricity, all of which makes the brutal, violently acrobatic climax well worth the wait.
There’s not a lot more to it, other than to say this is one of the rare Seattle-set Hollywood productions that actually feels like it was shot here by people who know the city, and not by tourists who only want to show the Space Needle every time someone goes outside. I also appreciated that there is no rain in the film. Instead, Soderbergh revels in the region’s sunshine, his cinematography — once again under his alias, Peter Andrews — evincing a colorful, eye-popping vitality that’s sublime.
Other technical aspects are equally outstanding, not the least of which is Soderbergh’s crackerjack editing, the spirited score by Cliff Martinez (Drive), and the inventively stripped-down production design by Philip Messina (mother!). But, as already stated, it is Kravitz who makes all of this work. She is the engine who powers Kimi to the finish line, and although it’s only February, I have a sneaky suspicion I’ll be talking rhapsodically about her performance for the rest of the year.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)