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Steven Soderbergh’s “Kimi”: Blue Hair and Blunt Cuts

Climbing through ceilings and using nail guns as weapons: just another day at the job.

In the same sort of way that Steven Soderbergh’s 2020 film, Let Them All Talk, focused intently on the people, his newest movie, Kimi, is about the person—and the brain behind that person.

Zoë Kravitz plays the blunt-cut and blue-haired Angela Childs, an agoraphobic voice stream interpreter for a major tech company, The Amygdala Corporation. Fairly low on the totem pole, Childs is a working-from-home listener for one of their products, Kimi, a pod-like listening device very similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. As the device isn’t always correct on its suggestions, workers like Childs are assigned real, anonymous prompts to write out codes in order to fix those mistakes.

Most of the prompts assigned to her are pretty boring—just usual, everyday mess-ups like playing the wrong Taylor Swift song and adding the wrong item to a list. Though on one particular occasion, things drastically (and quickly) change the tone of her workday. A woman’s screams muffled by techno music catch her attention on a data stream, leading her to replay the audio over and over again, each time messing with the clip a bit more to isolate the actual voices behind the music.

With a fair amount of tinkering, she’s finally able to get a good listen to what’s going on and is shocked and disturbed by what she’s hearing. Knowing that she needs to alert someone about this, Angela quickly gets in contact with a few higher-ups from Amygdala.

She’s thrown around from one person to the next, ultimately getting into contact with the hard-to-reach Natalie Chowdhury, head of Organic Interpolation (whatever that means) at Amygdala. Finally, Chowdhury invites Childs to join her at their Seattle office to discuss the matter. While she’s unable to leave her apartment for most other things, Childs doesn’t hesitate to leave for…wait, why is it that she leaves, actually? For something that’s truly important, whether that’s for the woman on the other side of the audio call or simply for justice itself; she knows that she has to do something.

Chowdhury is played by a very sketchy Rita Wilson, who seems like a friend who’s just trying to do the right thing for the company. However, Childs’ decision to leave proves her fears of leaving the apartment, as her life almost immediately comes into danger after being at the office for 15 minutes. What starts as a conversation about getting to the bottom of what’s going on in the audio clip quickly turns into the company protecting itself—meaning that whoever is opposite the woman on the call is someone important.

The film is over in a quick blink—granted, it was only an hour and a half, but the pace hooks you. Even though we’re watching a woman simply work from home for a portion of the film, there’s something more that keeps us going. As we’re slightly peeking our heads out of the pandemic in real-time today, Angela’s feeling of isolation is something that’s easy for us all to relate to, as the open window became our closest middle man to the outside world for quite some time.

In the same sense that the film is outwardly a psychological thriller, it’s also a deep look into humanity and how far certain people are willing to go in order to get what they want. For Angela, it’s for the sake of good, yet for the company, it’s something a bit more sinister.

Kravitz carries the entire movie, gentle but with a toughness simmering beneath the surface. Though it’s expected for her to carry the film given that the entire focus is on her character, she was the exact right choice for this role, commanding attention sometimes even without words. It’s the tiny moments that give us a look into her state of mind: for one, it’s wanting to gain the strength to leave her apartment and pausing in front of the door, unable to do so.

Even with those smaller moments, Soderbergh wastes no time in Kimi. It’s fast-paced, capturing your attention the entire way through and seamlessly flowing from one idea to the next. Whereas Let Them All Talk relied more on casualness and ad-libbing (and it wasn’t extremely successful in that), Kimi is sleek; nothing was extraneous, which made it such a riveting thriller take in. Though not of the groundbreaking sort, the film ultimately held its own, making for an all-around solid thriller.

Kimi is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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