Review by: Aditya Thiyag

Director: Steven Sonderbergh

Rating: 3.5/5

Movies, more than any other form of entertainment, have always been an escape from reality, and in our current pandemic world, that has especially become the case for millions worldwide. However, Stephen Soderbergh’s latest film, KIMI, excels due to it taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a premise centered around an ever-growing fear of digital surveillance in the modern age.

KIMI follows Angela Childs, an agoraphobic tech employee whose anxiety has prevented her from leaving the house even in a post-lockdown world. Played earnestly by Zoë Kravitz, Childs’ detachment from those around her is the primary focus of the film’s first third; while this did initially feel slow-paced in comparison to the breakneck speed of the second half, Soderbergh keeps the film engaging with extended long takes, dynamic sound design, and extreme close-ups. The film then moves into a high-stakes thriller when Childs discovers that a KIMI system, similar to an Amazon Alexa, may have recorded a murder that higher-ups at corporate are trying to mask.

The visuals and the singular focus on Childs are what primarily set KIMI apart from other thrillers – rather than spending time on needless exposition about the intricacies of the KIMI system or elaborate plot reveals and twists, the film prioritizes Childs and her crumbling life in the pandemic, allowing viewers to connect with. The soundtrack’s subtlety is an additional element that works in the film’s favor. Its intermittency brings the sound design to the forefront, highlighting every camera move and action on screen, but its jazzy presence is a much-needed reprieve from the tense moments that characterize the film. 

Directed, edited, and cinematographed all by Soderbergh himself, the only integral aspect of KIMI that isn’t entirely in his hands is the writing – which explains the dissonance between the refreshingly original direction and camera moves and the relatively paint-by-numbers paranoid thriller plot. Outside of the initial delve into Childs’ psyche, every other character in the film is surface-level at best, with nothing more than a name or character quirk to hold onto. The supporting cast all try their best to breathe life into their shoddily constructed caricatures of characters, but they can’t save the poor writing in the story department. With an ending that is rushed at best, the visual flair and Kravitz’s Angela Childs are the beating heart and soul of this film, and it is impossible to understate how much this story would falter without these aspects.
Diegetically lit, framed to perfection, but with a straightforward narrative that feels rather flavorless at times, KIMI is a thrill ride from a visionary director whose knack for eye-catching visuals gives him a unique voice in a landscape where such voices are often overshadowed by studio interference. Albeit a few hiccups in the character writing department, the film is still an entertaining watch all the way through.