In the near—very near—future, the latest digital personal assistant, is set to make a big IPO splash. Kimi can do anything Alexa or Siri can, of course. However, what has the financial world hungry for its stock is its improvements in voice recognition. By hiring real human beings to review random streams where Kimi failed to respond correctly, the device is far better than its peers at adapting. Thanks to people’s input, accents, colloquiums, and other facets of human speech algorithms struggle with become no problem for this small digital wonder.
Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) is one such human reviewer. In her sprawling Seattle apartment, complete with absolutely massive windows, she works, works out, flirts, and looks out over the world. The one thing Angela can’t or won’t do is leave the house. While never explicitly named, she demonstrates a collection of symptoms that indicate several possible diagnoses, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While signs point to these being existing conditions, the pandemic and an oft-noted but never fully described “attack” have significantly exacerbated them.
Kravitz does well demonstrating the symptoms without reducing Angela to simply a collection of them. Through both director Steven Soderbergh’s lens and David Koepp’s script, the film gives the character plenty of empathy while stopping short of total approval. The people in her life should be more compassionate, AND Angela is often too happy to ignore how she is ceding her life to her diagnosis. It is the rare genre picture that doesn’t depict mental illness as either a superpower or a nightmare from which there can be no relief.
The film truly kicks into gear when Angela catches what seems to be a woman calling for help during an assault on one of the streams. However, Kimi is interesting from the start. The way it defines Angela’s world—including the contractors upstairs, her direct supervisor Christian (Andy Daly), her flirtatious neighbor Terry (Byron Bowers), and a guy across the way who seems to be the only person watching the world go by more than Angela is (Devin Ratray)—gives the movie a heartbeat that’s often lacking from thrillers.
The deeper Angela sinks into what quickly becomes a ludicrous conspiracy, the more Soderbergh flexes his aesthetic muscles. While not his most stylish film, Kimi does a lot with a little. With camera moves and shifting shot compositions, the director—who also acts as Cinematographer—conveys the sense of fear, paranoia, and helplessness Angela often feels. Cliff Martinez’s score is also a marvel in establishing mood, frequently bouncy with just the right bit of sinister baked into the notes.
In addition to Daly, familiar faces like Robin Givens and Rita Wilson pop up in somewhat against type roles that work surprisingly well. Wilson, in particular, brings a remarkably chilly sense of false cheer to her corporate officer. One never expected her to be the kind of actor to make “How do I know that?” sound creepy, but she delivers.
As alluded to above, the premise is fairly ludicrous. The idea that a vast criminal conspiracy would envelop Angela rather than simply ignore her, especially given how little she seems to have, is the same kind of unlikely elevation Soderbergh engages in Unsane and Side Effects. However, it is a sort of grounded hyperbole that comes from humans’ overreactions, making it easier to swallow.
That neither the writer nor the director makes technology the film’s ****** is appreciated. They portray Kimi as a tool, not some kind of tiny tabletop monster. This isn’t an alarmist fable about “our modern world” like some kind of Black Mirror leftovers. Instead, Kimi delivers a small tight tech thriller that never loses its protagonist’s humanity amongst the machinery.
Kimi is streaming now on HBO Max.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: HBO Max.
Tim Steven is a sad tomato, Tim Stevens is three miles of bad road. He’s also a therapist, staff writer and social media manager for The Spool, and a freelance writer with publications like ComicsVerse, Marvel.com, CC Magazine, and The New Paris Press. His work has been quoted in Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and MSN Ireland. Feel free to find him @UnGajje on Twitter or in a realm of pure imagination.