Movie Review: Kimi by Stephen Soderbergh


Kimi” is a movie directed by Stephen Soderbergh. Filmed and released during the COVID-19 pandemic, it follows a tried-and-true structure of a good guy stumbling upon something terrible and then nearly getting killed trying to expose it. There are no real surprises in the ending; we all expect the lead character, Angela, to win out. Still, the story manages to grip us and carry us through to the end with every little twist and turn.

Kimi - a film by Stephen Soderbergh, starring Zoë Kravitz

The movie opens with the CEO of the company that Angela works for taking part in a live television interview, where he is espousing the characteristics of honesty, integrity and reliability on which his business is built. He wears a shirt and tie, together with a jacket, but we see as he finishes the interview that he is in his garage at home, complete with a fake bookshelf behind him and only wearing pyjama bottoms below his waist. It is a sign of things not being what they seem. We see him receive a phone call after the interview that alerts us to improper financial shenanigans happening behind the scenes. Then there is the name of the company, “Amygdala” – a part of the brain that controls how we assess and respond to threats and challenges and how we deal with fear and anxiety. Something that Angela must do throughout this film. No doubt this was woven into the story by Soderbergh. When he’s on his game, Soderbergh is a genius. He is a prolific movie maker. Some of his projects fall short, but “Kimi” is, thankfully, not one of those.

Angela is played by Zoë Kravitz, who does an exceptional job of drawing us into her world. It’s often the little things that make this movie so good, and Kravitz makes us feel every one of her insecurities as we get taken along for the ride. We become one with her paranoia, which we learn stems from a sexual assault that happened some years earlier and resulted in her being prosecuted instead of her assailant. Much of the story is set inside Angela’s expansive open-plan loft apartment in downtown Seattle. With wide sweeping cinematography and a compelling music score, it’s easy to get engrossed in her secluded life. We learn a lot about Angela over a very short space of time, just by watching. Strong, upright and confident as she moves around her apartment, Angela is in control, until she’s not. With corresponding changes to camera angles, moving from distant shots to extreme close-ups, we embrace all her insecurities, including her inability to leave the apartment for dental work or mental health therapy sessions. Angela’s character is complex, and Kravitz is exceptionally skilful at serving those character traits up to us.

With her anxiety exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Angela is working for Amygdala as one of many people responsible for checking and correcting audio streams from the smart speaker system known as “Kimi”. While her job is seemingly simple—listen to sound snippets and correct or teach “Kimi” to understand them by typing in a definition—things go awry when Angela overhears what she thinks is someone being murdered and the ensuing battle to expose the truth.

Though the plot may be simple, it’s not always easy to tell a simple story. David Koepp’s screenplay is brought to life exceptionally well by Soderbergh, assisted by Kravitz and the rest of the cast. There are many nuances in this film that the viewer needs to watch out for to truly ‘get’ it, although it is a thoroughly enjoyable movie regardless.

As Angela is forced through circumstance to attend the offices of Amygdala, she must face her fears of the outside world. We watch her venture outside and deal with her overwhelming anxiety as the need to help the murder victim overrides her agoraphobia. Kravitz nails the facial expressions and mannerisms as Angela moves around town, slinking from structure to structure, head bowed and hooded, face mask on, her eyes down, symbolising a total withdrawal from society. Angela is out of her insulated world and no longer in complete control. Covid restrictions are acknowledged but do not have a significant impact on the story. Where some movies made during the pandemic seem contrived or make a big issue of it, “Kimi” simply acknowledges it exists and then moves on.

Of course, there is the obligatory chase scene followed by the climactic ending where Angela prevails in a classic good defeats evil story. While the ending was not unexpected, the storytelling skills of Soderbergh, the ability of Kravitz and the rest of the cast to bring it to life, and the apparent nod to Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” made “Kimi” a thoroughly enjoyable movie to spend 89 minutes with.

If you enjoyed this article, I'd love you to join me for more! Add your name and email address to the form below, and let's explore the world of writing together.

Leave a Comment