DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh

CAST: Zoë Kravitz, Betsy Brantley, Rita Wilson, India de Beaufort, Emily Kuroda, Byron Bowers, Jaime Camil, Jacob Vargas, Derek DelGaudio, Erika Christensen, Devin Ratray, Andy Daly, Robin Givens, Charles Halford

RUNNING TIME: 89 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: An agoraphobic tech worker (Kravitz) uncovers a deadly plot…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The beauty about sitting down to watch a Steven Soderbergh movie is that you never exactly know what you’re going to get until it actually starts. In the case of Kimi, you go into it thinking it’s going to be another one of his more experimental outings like Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience or his indie debut Sex, Lies and Videotape, but then come to find that it’s much more in line with one of his more mainstream movies, like Ocean’s Eleven or Magic Mike or Out of Sight, among others.

No matter what you may be expecting, though, you’re in for a wild and consistently engaging thrill ride, which aside from being delightfully simple and straightforward is also one of the filmmaker’s strongest films in a number of years.

Soderbergh’s film takes place as a new tech corporation named Amygdala is making waves with its revelatory but controversial new OS known as Kimi, an Alexa-like device that relies on remote tech workers to listen in on people’s requests and accurately present a more direct response from the device to the user. One of these tech workers is a woman named Angela (Zoë Kravitz), who holes herself up in her apartment due to her crippling agoraphobia, and spends her day silently listening though countless Kimi user demands – however, during one session, Angela hears a woman being assaulted, and upon closer investigation she discovers a deadly plot that involves some of the higher-ups in her own company. Now, Angela must face her fears if she is to venture outside and hand the recording to the right people, or face the wrath of hired goons who are keen to keep it all under wraps, no matter the cost.

Right off the bat, it’s no secret that Soderbergh is taking heavy cues from Alfred Hitchcock in making his own intense surveillance thriller. Beyond the obvious plot comparisons to Rear Window (which comes more from screenwriter David Koepp, known for his scripts to Jurassic Park, Panic Room and Carlito’s Way among many others), Soderbergh mimics a number of Hitchcock’s trademark camera tricks here, such as slow pans and sharp zoom-ins designed to create tension, while also bringing his own hand-held style to the party, especially during the second half where – mild spoilers – things extend beyond this one apartment for our main character. There have been plenty of pale Hitchcock imitations in the past, but this is one where you really do feel as though the filmmakers did their homework by emulating this specific style and approach almost exactly how the man himself would have done it, and it’s rather fascinating to see how closely Kimi follows the traditional pattern while also implementing its own brand of identity.

On its own, Kimi still works as a solid, self-contained thriller where even some of the more predictable parts are still filled with such a feeling of dread and terror, based purely on how it’s filmed and performed simultaneously. At just under 90 minutes, Soderbergh’s direction is noticeably fast-paced, but digestible enough for the viewer to clarify what, where and why things are happening without drawing too much attention to itself. Zoë Kravitz also delivers a very self-assured performance that gives us all the right information about her in just a few carefully-delivered lines of dialogue, with some of her later scenes requiring a much more physical turn as the action and tension are ramped up (you can tell in certain sequences that she is absolutely terrified, just in the way she walks and how her body language is so composed it’s almost surreal). The whole time, you are absolutely on edge as you impatiently wait to see where this conspiracy will ultimately take this character, leading towards a climax that, again, does harken back to a Hitchcock thriller like Rear Window only with a lot more nail guns.

Some parts of the plot do feel a little thin, and certain things are resolved rather quickly, but Kimi just up and runs with its simplicity and expands on the clear tension it produces, while also keeping things light enough for things to avoid getting too complicated for their own good. Sure, you could hypothetically poke one or two holes through it, but why would you want to do that when, despite itself, you’re having a good enough time watching it to care whether things add up or not? This is definitely one of Soderbergh’s most purely entertaining movies in years, because it emulates a classic auteur style and completely makes it its own, and is a well-made, strongly-acted and smoothly-paced thriller that knows exactly what it is and delivers tenfold to its mostly satisfied audience.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Kimi is a solid thriller that is perhaps one of director Steven Soderbergh’s strongest and most purely entertaining films in years, emulating the style and pacing of Alfred Hitchcock while also bringing in its own identity to craft a tense and engaging story that revels in its simplicity and leaves you just as fearful and stressed as its troubled protagonist.

Kimi is now available to stream on Sky Cinema and NOW TV.

It is also available to rent/buy on digital platforms, including Amazon Prime Video.

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