If you’ve ever scrolled endlessly through streaming service after streaming service, randomly picked a movie you’ve never heard of starring an actor or actress you recognize, mildly enjoyed it and then fallen asleep, you probably have a good idea of what “Kimi” is like. Steven Soderbergh’s (“Ocean’s Eleven”) newest film “Kimi” isn’t going to blow you away or draw you in for a second watch, but it also won’t leave you upset after spending 90 minutes watching it.
“Kimi” is an HBO Max-exclusive, filmed and set during the pandemic. It stars Zoë Kravitz (“High Fidelity”) as Angela Childs, a worker for the tech corporation Amygdala. The titular Kimi, Amygdala’s primary product, is an Alexa-esque smart speaker that uses human workers to correct the errors in its voice recognition software. Angela, who suffers from severe anxiety and an almost obsessive aversion to the outside world, discovers a recording of a woman’s murder. She is forced to go outside in order to bring the recording to the FBI, braving hitmen, streets full of protesters and corporate cover-ups.
Kravitz carries much of the movie single-handedly. For most of the movie, Angela is the only character the audience gets to see directly, with everyone else obfuscated by video calls and glass windows. She makes Angela’s anxiety feel realistic, which gives the movie’s basic premise a solid foundation. Without her convincing portrayals of Angela’s panic attacks at the idea of going outside, this whole movie would have felt ridiculous.
There is a noticeable shift in the camerawork once Angela leaves her apartment. The slow shots of her walking throughout her spacious loft that the movie started with are gone. We are now treated to shaking footage at angles that put Angela in the corner, small and scared of the world around her. The film has a sped-up quality to it, zoomed out to make the camera appear to move faster than it actually is, as well as many quick cuts, making these scenes feel panicked and off-putting. These tricks work wonderfully the first couple of times they are used but become stale by the end of the movie. The movie ramps up tension for the first half, only to then plateau off toward the end.
There is a level of artificiality to the tension of the movie. It is rife with coincidences that were clearly inserted to obtusely heighten the drama of early scenes. A precariously placed glass falls just as Angela first discovers the murder; Angela’s boss calls her the moment after she discovers the identity of the woman on the recording; her shut-in neighbor walks up the moment Angela is brought back to her apartment drugged and about to be murdered. All of these coincidences might seem small, but as more and more start to build up, they become increasingly frustrating. The movie is a very tight 90 minutes; the multitude of fluke occurrences feel out of place when compared to the well-planned chase scenes and anxiety-inducing setup.
The movie is at its best when it leans on the paranoia Angela feels, especially after she leaves her apartment. Every step in her quest to uncover the murder she stumbled upon is met with doubt from the people she meets along the way. Her anxiety and discomfort are telegraphed for everyone in the audience to see very clearly. While not subtle, it is nonetheless relatable to see a corporate higher-up condescendingly talk down to Angela, pretending to listen when just trying to save their own skin. This aspect of the movie was the only one that really kept my attention and didn’t leave a nagging voice wanting substantially more.
“Kimi” leaves you underwhelmed with the knowledge that you could have been given more. The filmmakers demonstrate that they know what they are doing, but at very key points, seem to have chosen the easy route. The movie doesn’t try to go above and beyond; instead, it settles as another enjoyably forgettable action thriller.
Daily Arts Writer Zach Loveall can be reached at email@example.com.