‘Kimi’ is like the episode of ‘Black Mirror’ that was just ok
‘Kimi’ is a 2022 thriller from Director Steven Soderbergh, starring Zoe Kravitz as agoraphobic tech worker Angela Childs. The title refers to an Alexa type smart home device called, ‘Kimi’, which is designed to work in much the same way as similar devices we are used to. What sets it apart is how it deals with errors in communication or understanding.
Whilst our devices use AI learning to improve, The Amygdala organisation, (whom Angela works for from home), use real people to monitor these errors to help the device understand better. Angela is one of the employees who receives these voice streams with errors and makes the necessary corrections. While performing her role, she hears what she believes is a crime
Steven Soderbergh once stated he had no interest in his name becoming a ‘brand’ in the way Spielberg, Scorsese, or Tarantino are. This is to enable each film to fly or fail on their own merits. Soderbergh is an Oscar winner and a visionary, innovative director but he isn’t what you could describe as consistent. It may be fair to say he’s had as many misses as hits. For every Traffic, Oceans 11 and Erin Brockovich there are also those which miss the mark (Kafka, The Underneath . Schizopolis and The Good German to name a few)
That is the trademark of a director who loves experimenting and is unwilling to be boxed or remain in one space too long. He is willing to take chances and sometimes they work and occasionally they don’t. I appreciate I may be in the minority with this view, but ‘KIMI’ falls into the latter category.
I was looking forward to ‘Kimi’ as even though it arrived with little fanfare, it came with the prestige of a known director. But more than that, it would give us a chance to get a taste of what Zoe Kravitz brings to the table as a lead actress ahead of her debut as Catwoman in Matt Reeves ‘The Batman‘. The trailer arrived with an interesting premise around our overreliance on technology and our loss of privacy. Zoe’s striking blue hair also gave the feel of an almost ‘cyber’ future society where technology has invaded much more of our lives.
Steven Soderbergh has demonstrated a good command of heist movies, thrillers and powerful dramas. Despite being a thriller, this does also fall into the category of cyber thriller, where the use of technology proves to be as detrimental as it is beneficial.
What we are presented with here is a society very similar to our own. The genius of a tv series like ‘Black Mirror‘ is it uses what we already understand about technology and takes it to a place that’s both intriguing and terrifying to us. It lets us see where what we do now could lead in the future and serves as a cautionary tale. The ‘Kimi’ device is giving us a scenario we are all already aware is happening.
There are numerous stories around smart devices recording conversations and listening in when they shouldn’t be. That even extends to our smart phones and has become an element we have learnt to live with. For a techno thriller, this left the film feeling uninspired and quite flat.
Zoe Kravitz’s performance as an agoraphobe was decent but not really memorable. It’s become a more common film character trope in recent years, and to be fair, she does a decent job. The more interesting aspects of her character (her broken relationship with her mum, the trauma that contributed to her condition) are skimmed over and may have provided a welcome additional dimension to her character but at 89mins, they were probably pushed for time. Rather than work round Covid like most films do at the moment, they decided to work it into the story and add it to Angela’s condition.
The problem with that is you have to be consistent. At one point Angela packs a stack of wipes before she’d consider stepping outside. On the other hand, she is ok to have her boyfriend from the building across the road enter her apartment to have sex and her only recourse is to wash the sheets with no acknowledgement that Covid is actually spread through the air. Characters are seen with masks one minute outside then without them shortly after in enclosed environments.
The city feels like a film set as opposed to a place where people actually live. People strangely ignore a woman being chased down the street, no one attempts to call the authorities. An almost comical attempted kidnap sees Angela being dragged into a van with protesters outside pulling her out. Again, no sign of the police, authority or anyone taking down the registration of the van of these bumbling villains.
Angela gains evidence of a serious crime and ends up with ‘men in black’ trying to kill her but she makes no call to the police. Instead, she just makes an impossible race to the local FBI office, because the evidence of a crime against a stranger is more important than her own safety. Her fellow agoraphobic neighbour luckily also ventures outside for the first time in Angelas moment of need!?
Soderbergh is known for experimental camera work, utilising interesting angles to create movement with a sense of urgency. This is on display here with a few sequencies particularly effective, for example when she is drugged and being chased upstairs. His films are also known for smart innovative scripts and interesting layered storylines. This was sadly absent for proceedings here. The crime in question is quite basic and what follows is pretty much a standard affair.
There is no new revelation about tech we use or ‘threat’ of what the future may hold. It’s like they started off with the intention of examining the tech and our overreliance on it but gave up halfway through without delivering a real opinion on these smart devices and we are treated to an old-fashioned home invasion with the most likely movie outcome.
At times, the most interesting thing on the screen was Angela’s striking blue hair but by the end even that had blended into the background. This unfolded exactly as you would expect and failed to provide anything I would consider thrilling. An uninspired tech thriller that disappointingly brings little new to the table
2 .5 out of 5