Kimi Review: A slick new thrill ride from Soderbergh
Prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh continues to prove himself as a “jack of all trades” director with his latest engaging modern thrill ride, Kimi.
Kimi instantly gives off modern vibes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as its story follows an agoraphobic woman named Angela (Zoe Kravitz) who discovers audio of a murder recorded on a smart speaker called Kimi. However, rather than be stuck in her home by force, Angela remains inside voluntarily, and the film initially grabs your attention with how it captures her life with agoraphobia that’s unlike most other depictions. Angela isn’t this trembling recluse who can’t have a social interaction and in fact, when she’s inside her home, she’s a very sociable person.
In basically every aspect of her life, in her house, Angela can effectively be in control, whether it’s getting construction workers nearby to be quiet or getting her romantic partner Terry (Byron Bowers) to come over for sex. Kravitz adds to this by bringing a likeable energy to Angela’s controlling personality and it’s what makes Angela shuddering and becoming powerless when she’s tasked with or asked about leaving her home so impactful. You can really feel this need for control and power in her life, which is made understandable when a previous assault she suffered is disclosed, and there’s a lot that Soderbergh and writer David Koepp bring to her story that emphasizes her struggles with agoraphobia.
Stylistically, Soderbergh noticeably changes certain aspects when Angela is finally forced to leave her house to uncover more about the murder she hears. The pace becomes much faster and the change to handheld camera work matches the determined, but internally panicked movement Angela has outside of her home. It’s something that not only works in amping up the thrills as Angela is forced to run for her life after she finds herself ensnared into a dangerous conspiracy, but also adds deeper layers to the character. Even when we’re in Angela’s home, there’s these signs that show how she’s buried herself deeper in her agoraphobia.
From how she uses technology as an excuse to stay inside to how she shuts Terry and others down about confronting her issues, Angela’s agoraphobic behavior is captured in a complex way that’s only made more compelling by Kravitz’s performance. There are some aspects, like Angela’s reliance on technology and even COVID, that could’ve been taken a step further to dig deeper into modern anti-social behavior, but overall, it emphasizes Angela’s powerlessness without making her overly weak. You even can see where she could possibly have a breakthrough moment and the film excellently builds towards that through the mystery narrative she’s drawn into.
Truthfully, Kimi doesn’t have the most shocking reveals, the deepest rabbit-hole mystery, or even strong supporting characters, but manages to maintain its strength through Angela’s personal character arc. While Soderbergh uses his stylistic filmmaking to create some nail biting chases and a very fun final fight, Angela’s arc of her gaining strength and power unfolds in a fulfilling fashion. It’s genuinely satisfying to see her stand up against her aggressors with great resilience and have this desire to not let this murderer go free drive her to push past her fears. It all forms a surprisingly empowering arc for Angela that creates a bloody finale and some hard-hitting action.
Kimi might pale in comparison to some more exciting, shocking thrillers out there, but it’s a smartly slick thrill ride that contains an empowering character arc that elevated through Soderbergh’s strong filmmaking as well as Kravitz’s great lead performance.