REVIEW | A brilliant showcase, Steven Soderbergh's Kimi never lags, even for a minute

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Zoë Kravitz in Kimi.
Zoë Kravitz in Kimi.
Photo: Showmax

Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) has severe agoraphobia, so she works from home for the tech company behind Kimi. The Siri-like device is, if anything, more responsive to voice commands and more likely to invade the privacy of its owner. When she discovers what sounds like a violent crime being committed on a Kimi recording, she soon finds that the company she works for may be a whole lot more dangerous than anyone could have suspected.

Kimi, the latest film by Steven Soderbergh, sees the highly versatile director behind such wildly disparate fare as Magic Mike, Ocean's 11, and Solaris return with a film that recalls his most stripped-back, unfussy efforts.

The film is very much set in a post-Covid world and depicts a condition that was only exacerbated in many people by the pandemic and its ensuing severe lockdowns. But when you get right down to it, the film is nothing more and nothing less than a taut conspiracy thriller that's low on locations, cast members and running time but high on increasingly ratcheting suspense.

Zoë Kravitz is another in the long line of her generation's dependably excellent actors. Needless to say, she carries the entire film as the reclusive Angela, bringing her unique brand of shy, sly sensuality to a character who is, by nature, self-contained and rather prickly. Which is just as well as the film is really all about Angela dealing with past trauma and finding a way to move forward in an increasingly terrifying world. A rather relatable character arc, regardless of its heightened context - and Kravitz hits just the right balance of keeping the character both consistent throughout and slowly but surely evolving through a mixture of circumstance and steely self-determination.

Without such a well-measured performance and character arc, the film would probably have felt a bit too bare-bones and insubstantial for its own good. Certainly, despite being named after this piece of tech that is really just a stand-in for a very famous real-world device, the film has really nothing to say on that topic beyond "evil tech companies are evil", and there's really nothing whatsoever original or even surprising about how the film's actual plot plays out.  

Which, for that matter, actually speaks volumes about how effective a piece of filmmaking this is. Working off a minimalistic but genuinely witty script by industry veteran David Koepp (the man responsible for classics like Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Panic Room, and the occasional stinker like the Tom Cruise version of The Mummy), Soderbergh proves once again just how very, very good he is at this sort of thing by wringing out maximum tension from a story that is actually the textbook definition of generic.

From the first second, you know exactly where this film is going, and yet Koepp, Soderbergh and the entire cast and crew never let your attention waver. Whether it's the mundane sequences of Angela dealing with her mental illness, her casual-serious sexual relationship with Terry (Byron Bowers), or the film's "set pieces" that mostly involve Angela being pushed out of her cosy apartment and into the big, bad world, the film never sags for even a minute of its snappy, sub-ninety-minute running time. 

If there is a downside to all this, it's that however much the film has more substance than at first glance; it will inevitably go down as a fairly minor entry in Soderbergh's canon. But then, considering that this puts it in the company of Haywire and Side Effects, that's really no bad thing at all.

Where to watch: Showmax

Cast: Zoë Kravitz, Rita Wilson, India de Beaufort, Emily Kuroda, Byron Bowers, Derek DelGaudio, Betsy Brantley

Our rating: 3.5/5 Stars


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