Kimi Synopsis: Angela (Zoë Kravitz), a tech worker with agoraphobia, discovers recorded evidence of a violent crime, but is met with resistance when she tries to report it. Seeking justice, she must do the thing she fears the most: she must leave her apartment.
Steven Soderbergh never ceases to amaze me. Few directors reinvent themselves with such poise and stylistic vigor, charting a three-decade-plus career that spans every genre in the book. From a crowdpleasing stripper melodrama (Magic Mike) to an encompassing look into the seedy drug war (Traffic), there are no limits to Soderbergh’s distinctly cerebral presence behind the camera.
The craftsman’s latest endeavor, Kimi, welcomes Soderbergh back to the flurried techniques of close-quarters thrillers (his last thriller, 2018’s Unsane, displayed innovation in Soderbergh’s claustrophobic iPhone camerawork). Programmed with vibrant imagery and sly intelligence, Kimi represents another masterful effort from Soderbergh, one that doubles its pulsating thriller with resonant ruminations on pandemic-era angst.
Several features have already attempted deconstructions on pandemic zeitgeist with mostly middling results, often fixating more on the macro circumstances over the personal ramifications lingering under the surface. Kimi brilliantly maneuvers that tendency by centering solely on its central protagonist.
Played with a deft balance between detached chilliness and internalized turmoil by star Zoë Kravitz, Angela finds herself locked into the confines of her well-dressed apartment. Days spent toiling away on mindless customer calls and living vicariously through outdoor window gazes feel all-too-familiar for the many of us who spent months locked inside our homes. The inclusion of Angela’s agoraphobia works intelligently to intensify her internal anxieties and suppressed traumas into a state of crippling despair.
Angela’s overwhelming paranoia is magnified further by the unrelenting reach of our technological society. Standing in for Alexa-esque creations, the AI Kimis present a neighborly presence that ultimately masks the devices (and their creators) more sinister connotations.
Soderbergh and Screenwriter David Koepp analyze our technology-dependent society with intelligence and proper dramatic heft. As cameras and microphones record Angela at every turn, Kimi effectively taps into apprehensions about our devices’ ever-present shadow in our lives.
Where most would contextualize those sentiments into an intimate drama, Soderbergh’s lively direction repurposes his character beats into the thriller pastiche. The director keenly lulls audiences along at the start before unleashing a flurry of frenzied movements once Angela boldly exits her house. It’s an intoxicating blend of lighting and movement, borrowing from classic Hitchcockian influences while also injecting a stylized modern aesthetic. His techniques never feel weightless in their impact, with the director’s vibrant pulse always working to heighten the onscreen drama.
Like many of Soderbergh’s works, Kimi invigorates familiar traditions in a wholly unique package. It’s 2022’s first truly great film, a feature that carves a distinct identity without forgetting its genre forefathers. Don’t be surprised if Kimi ranks on a few “Best of” lists by year’s end.