⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars out of 5)
Kimi (2022) Directed by Steven Soderbergh
It’s not as smart as it pretends to be and it’s not as tense as it should be, yet it’s a film that does more things right than it doesn’t; starting with the crucial and developmental cyber component that ties together the pieces of this justifiably modern 21st century suspense. The film makes technology participatory, and simultaneously unveils allegories identifying post-2020 social problems with an inquisitive commentary on intimate confidentiality in relation to technology and privacy rights. In what appears to be narratively an average quotidian Rear Window but with modern technology ends up being centrally something more than that, Zoë Kravitz in my perspective is the best and the pure authenticity of this film; for let’s face it, the recycled narrative is too flat for a director like Steven Soderbergh. But still, I admit that the delirious and mutable visual radicalism is thoroughly enjoyable, and it’s noticeable that Soderbergh sought to give a shifting maximalism to the predictable narrative with his classic orchestration of weightless camera pans that claustrophobically yet calmly establish the protagonist’s hermit life and then unsuspectingly amplify the visual play with relentless canted angles to deepen the character’s agoraphobic psychology. I’d hesitate to say they were exactly optimal in their hasty use and perpetual reliance on those unsettling angles to heighten realism as well as warp the surroundings, it’s very likely that insightful cuts would have yielded a dramatically cumulative effect more successfully than that persistence of frenetic camera angles. The coolest thing about this visual freshness, though, is that Soderbergh openly tells us that he is indulging himself; at this point in his career he is free to do as he pleases, after all, he has already demonstrated his cinematic prowess more than a few times.
It should have been a film of more than straightforward thriller dynamics, the infallible elements of suspense cinema are in place, and the themes assiduously vibrate with identifiable modern details that make the film extraordinarily entertaining, but much of the cleverness of the stealthy first act is sacrificed to end the film with cyclical clichés of your typical pop corn cinema.
Being a tightly scripted film could be seen as a minor flaw, but Zoë Kravitz’s prominent performance and the creatively suffocating atmosphere is too good to be abandoned too soon in that repetitive third act. It’s very easy to perceive the thematic core and where it wants to take us, yet the skillful intricacy of the narrative lies in its anti-univocal message, which undoubtedly stimulates the development of the plot without remaining a single-minded purpose. Almost like a Kafkaesque hoax, the film exasperates the main character with a corporate bureaucracy that alters the sense of the real, added to that we have the comorbidity of the protagonist suffering multiple psychological and physical attacks; paranoia and secluded behavior works as another element to the great sense of nervous pathologies that this film has. Basically, Soderbergh does what he does best but without the ostentatiousness of having a large ensemble cast, and the energetic ability he has to keep making films year after year without stopping has clearly given him the confidence to deal more aggressively with the cinematic apparatus. This is a solid, well-acted film, yet I’m still waiting for the judicious, dexterous, and delightfully superior Soderbergh of the late 80’s and 90’s to return.
The treatment given to the story is quite Hitchcockian, but with a heightened modernity that feels momentarily genuine. The story centers on an agoraphobic tech worker who discovers recorded evidence of a violent crime during a data stream review. After being hit with resistance and bureaucracy over her company’s change of command, she determines to fight her fears to get involved.
As main idea and object we have within the narrative the modern technological ubiquity in our lives, visibly it is palpable this identifiable feeling that we are watching a movie that reflects our sedentary life, a life in which sadly we have been subjected to practically having to do any daily task through the internet and its thousands of devices that every day become more ridiculous than the previous ones. Curiously and intelligently, Kimi makes use of that virtual necessity in our lives as something purely narrative, that specifically makes this film something intensive, the relationship that this film shares with the advanced technologies of our times makes us reflect without sinning of being hideously moralistic. Objectively the film has a direct way of saying things, its narrative framework presents a precise allusion to how the internet has altered the world, both for better and for worse; and optimally those details are scrupulously used to make of the simple paranoia that someone is constantly watching us or listening to what we say, an electric exercise in suspense cinema.
Kimi fails considerably in wanting to imbue intellectualism where there is none, and Soderbergh despite visually vitalizing the film, his direction at times leaves much to be desired. The obvious flaws are generally narrative, yet that doesn’t mean that formally there aren’t any either. The nurturing suspense within this method of storytelling is validly entertaining thanks mainly to the terrific performance of Zoë Kravitz, playing the attentive but mentally troubled Angela Childs, a representative or why not illustrative character; the nervous hyperbole in her lifestyle keeps her confined to her comfortable apartment where she lives with the only company of KIMI (basically an alternate version of ALEXA). The character is balanced with great intuition by Kravitz, an actress who phenomenally gives complex nuances to the character, thus giving a character rich in compulsive personality. With those characteristics alone, this film assures you of an unsettling sense of menace. The pathologies of the protagonist are evident but not unambiguously clear, it is firmly a post-covid generational representation, which may certainly fall too obviously for some but overall the precise calculation psychologically given to the character on screen is brilliant.
And speaking of the constructive emphasis on technology in the narrative, the omnipresence of these cybernetic functions gives Soderbergh a playfulness that allows him to examine not only the behavior of technology in our lives but the fundamental role it now plays in 21st century cinema. It’s extremely hilarious to think about, but this film articulates some of the most bizarre shot/reverse shot I’ve ever seen, particularly since they are done with the same essence that would be done with a human, the difference here is that doing close-ups of a computer, or laptop, cell phone in conversation with the protagonist becomes something absurdly singular and oddly humorous. Some of the perspectives given in each composition are enlivened through rhythmic cuts in conjunction with insert shots that add relationship to the simple space of a desk with a computer and a person typing rapidly; it is filmed as if it were a beautiful piano and the fast-paced energy of the suspense makes everything even more operatic.
Steven Soderbergh is still making competent films, he hasn’t lost his touch, even if my cinephile heart makes me wish he would return to his more intellectually honest and analytical stages, I can’t deny that I’m content with these energetic thrillers he’s made lately. Kimi is not his most artful film, it’s too uneven for that, nevertheless it intuitively manifests with its thematic purpose and electrifying visuals a laudable energy.