THE STORY – Angela is an agoraphobic, isolated Seattle tech worker who clears up miscommunication issues for an Alexa-type device. When she stumbles upon a voice recording of what sounds like a woman being murdered, and realizes that her company doesn’t want that information getting out, she takes it upon herself to bring the truth to light.
THE CAST – Zoë Kravitz, Byron Bowers, Jaime Camil, Erika Christensen, Derek DelGaudio, Robin Givens, Charles Halford, Devin Retray, Jacob Vargas & Rita Wilson
THE TEAM – Steven Soderbergh (Director) & David Koepp (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 89 Minutes
By Ema Sasic
Whether you like it or not, they’re listening. By “they,” I mean Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc. That’s why you will never convince me to buy a Google Nest or Alexa device. I don’t need everyone listening in on me belting Celine Dion or Harry Styles songs or the many embarrassing conversations I have by myself.
But what happens when you know they’re listening and want to do something about it? It can be a literal corporate nightmare, as depicted in Steven Soderbergh’s “KIMI.” It’s a game of who can you trust when you have valuable information that could literally destroy your company, as we see with the tumultuous journey Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) goes on. She might have a few issues, but there are definitely a lot of natural things she’s worried about. By keeping the film rooted in reality – like incorporating very familiar elements of the COVID-19 pandemic – everything about “KIMI” makes you realize how creepy and terrifying our digital world has become.
Most of this film takes place in Angela’s stylish Seattle apartment, where she often stares out of her windows at her neighbors across the street while drinking coffee. The blue-bob-haired woman has become agoraphobic since the COVID-19 pandemic, and honestly, who could blame her. While we don’t know precisely what stage of the pandemic this is set in, people are more often than not wearing masks whenever we do see a glimpse of the outside world, and Angela can always be seen dousing her hands in hand sanitizer.
But it’s OK that she’s not comfortable with going outside because work-from-home is very much an option for her. Angela is a “voice stream interpreter” for Amygdala Corporation. The company’s main product is the KIMI. It’s similar to a Google Home or Alexa device, where you can ask it to turn on your TV or play a song, but communications are monitored by real people (that’s clearly not a red flag!). If there is a miscommunication – like when a user asks KIMI to play “ME!” by Taylor Swift, but the device has a hard time understanding, or when it doesn’t understand a dirty joke – Angela is there to fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen next time. But when she hears what sounds like a woman being assaulted and murdered, Angela takes the recording to company leaders. It becomes self-evident that they won’t want this information to get out, so she has to take matters into her own hands and be careful of the people she trusts with the recording.
“KIMI” will likely remind you of other films, such as “The Conversation” or “Rear Window,” but it stays relatively simple. There are no huge hold-your-breath moments or reveals that you didn’t see coming. Instead, it’s easy to pick up on clues, even if they might not have seemed like much at face value, which will make more sense later in the film. What it smartly does is focus on the reality of the situation. If you think it’s weird that your phone knows exactly what ads would interest you the most, then you should probably worry about the several other things it picks up. The information that tech companies have from us is truly disturbing, and David Koepp’s script will make sure you never forget it.
The film is a little slow at the beginning as it mainly focuses on Angela’s isolated life and how dependent she is on her technology for human interactions. She relies on texts to invite the man across the street (Byron Bowers) over for a rendezvous, and she frequently hangs up on her therapist and mother (Robin Givens) over FaceTime. Her agoraphobia has gotten so bad that even the act of putting her key in her door is enough to fill her ears with ringing and make her plop down to her knees. But Kravitz never overdoes any of it or takes the overly dramatic route; her performance always feels very sincere and genuine.
Once Angela discovers the recording, we later learn more about what happened, “KIMI” really picks up. She has to brave the outdoors, which she does by letting people pass her by or staying close to the sides of buildings to get to the one person she thinks can actually help her. Again, Kravitz never performs this in an overly dramatic or mocking manner as her character faces her biggest fear. She even gets to take on the traditional badass-type character I associate with Kravitz later in the film, which is a huge treat. As both director and cinematographer here, Steven Soderbergh also has fun playing with the scenes when Angela’s outside. The camera speeds up toward her or captures her at different angles, providing a very disorienting feel similar to what she must be going through at that moment.
If you can sleep comfortably at night after watching “KIMI,” then I applaud you. But Koepp’s script will make you hyper-aware of the evils lurking right at our fingertips. “KIMI” has officially convinced me to turn my electronics off way more often and really unplug from whoever is watching or listening out there. If you need me, send a letter.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – It will make you ultra-aware of all the devices in your own home that may be listening in on every word you utter. Zoë Kravitz gives a great performance that feels very real. Steven Soderbergh plays with the cinematography to offer such a disorienting feeling to this movie at times.
THE BAD – The film takes a little bit too long to really get going.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS – None