Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Premise: Set during the COVID-19 pandemic, an agoraphobic woman (Zoë Kravitz) error checks voice commands for a virtual assistant technology company. She hears a recording of what might be a murder and tries to identify the victim.
What Works: Kimi is a reworking of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The filmmakers do not dance around their regard for the 1954 movie. Kimi includes several obvious visual homages to Hitchcock’s film and the music by Cliff Martinez recalls the classic scores of Franz Waxman and Bernard Herrmann. The protagonist of Rear Window was limited to his apartment due to an injury and the heroine of Kimi suffers from agoraphobia exacerbated by the pandemic. But the filmmakers bring a contemporary twist to the concept. The title refers to the electronic device at the center of the action. The Kimi is a fictionalized version of Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Nest devices – virtual assistant technology that responds to voice commands. Angela is a remote tech worker who documents error messages and comes across what might be the audio of a woman being murdered. Angela then tries to report the message to her superiors but finds herself the target of a conspiracy. When the action gets going, Kimi is a tight thriller. Angela’s search for the truth is quite smart and she tracks down information in ways that are mostly credible. The storytelling is efficient and the camerawork is quite good. Scenes of Angela walking outside are shot at an unusual angle with a lower frame rate that is unsettling. The storytelling is streamlined but Kimi also allows its central character a great deal of depth. Zoë Kravitz conveys the anxiety and trauma of her character and the movie allows her performance the room to breathe. And in that respect, Kimi is one of the better pandemic-set dramas. It uses this scenario to dramatize the anxiety and isolation of lockdown and the role of technology and corporations during the pandemic.
What Doesn’t: There is one key difference between Kimi and Rear Window; the 2022 movie gets out of the apartment. That generally works for Kimi because it forces Angela to face her agoraphobia but Kimi misses the novelty of limiting the action to the apartment complex. Kimi only runs eighty-nine minutes but the film takes awhile to get going. The first third of the picture sets up details that pay off later but this portion of the movie comes across baggy. Angela has a relationship with her neighbor Terry (Byron Bowers). This doesn’t come to much. Her emotional distance from him tells us about Angela’s state of mind but Terry remains an incidental player in the story.
DVD extras: On HBO Max.
Bottom Line: Kimi is an effective thriller and one of the better feature films set during the pandemic. It is an efficient little movie that is smart and highly entertaining and manages to insert some depth and character detail.
Episode: #893 (March 6, 2022)