For Kimi, read Siri. The title of the film is taken from a fictional voice user interface and operating system that records and stores your interactions with a view to better learning of your needs and wants. How fictional it actually is will be one of the questions raised by the movie.
Curiously, considering the expectations you’d have of a set up like this, Kimi is not the villain of the piece. This is not a tale of computers gone rampant like 2001, Terminator, I Robot, The Mitchells vs the Machines and so many others. Even Spike Jonze’s Her, which itself went in a different direction, did this same thing to some extent. In Kimi though, the tech is refreshingly just there. It is the people behind it who make trouble. Sure the system gets people in a fix but mostly it helps them out, like it is supposed to do.
This movie is actually more akin to something like Rear Window, which is a comparison that it wears on its sleeve at the beginning. Zoë Kravitz plays the housebound Angela who works for the Kimi company and thinks she hears evidence of a murder on one of the recordings she is paid to monitor (this time it’s a virtual window). Unlike Rear Window though, her limitation is not a broken leg but agoraphobia which places it more closely against Joe Wright’s The Woman at the Window that came out on Netflix last year.
Holding this film and that one up against one another, it really does highlight the inadequacies in Wright’s movie. Both borrow from Hitchcock’s classic thriller but The Woman in the Window presented a plot that, while it is was going for sophistication, ended up being a bit silly. Kimi by comparison benefits from keeping the story relatively simple and concentrating on doing less but doing it well. The narrative is straightforward but it is compellingly executed.
Kravitz is very good in the lead role as she looks into the mystery behind her discovery. There is a modicum of unnecessary nudity but her character shows strength despite her anxieties. This is someone crippled by a fear of leaving her flat but is still prepared to do so when the welfare of others demands it, which also saves us from too many of the stereotypical doorstep theatrics we’ve seen in films like Copycat, As Good As It Gets and yes, The Woman in the Window. At the end she shows great fortitude as well, in a way that sets her parallel with the ballsiest of screen heroines while still feeling realistic. She is certainly not playing the victim.
Kimi also feels quite felicitous to current times. Angela’s phobias have been worsened by Covid lockdowns and there are a couple of nice plays on the idea of people being on Zoom but having a different environment around them beyond that which can be seen on screen, which is something many of us have become aware of sitting in front of our perfect bookcases but surrounded by bikes and boxes and the like.
All of this comes from prolific director Stephen Soderbergh and while it might be a small film for him, it is a smart thriller that plays on and extends the conventions of the genre with skill. It may be a little generic in places but when it is all kept as tight and neat as it is here, that is forgivable.
Kimi is on iTune, Sky and NowTV and provides a very entertaining ninety minutes for a quiet evening at home. It’s certainly a lot more fun than asking Alexa for jokes and fart noises.