'Kimi' movie review: Zoë Kravitz gives her all but can't save Soderbergh's shallow thriller

Steven Soderbergh's 'Kimi' movie is a slight, but fast-paced, tech thriller with an enduring performance from Zoë Kravitz.

Kimi Zoe Kravitz
(Image: © Warner Bros. Pictures)

What to Watch Verdict

'Kimi' zips and zigzags as a conspiracy thriller, but can feel detrimentally superficial despite Zoë Kravitz giving it 110%.


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    Zoë Kravitz keeps things moving

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    Quick and to the point

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    The thrill is in the chase


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    Feels surface value at best

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    Moves too quickly at points

Steven Soderbergh's HBO Max release Kimi is a frenetic yet sterilized thriller for our modern Amazon and Google era. 

Like his 2018 movie Unsane, Soderbergh draws on gaslighting and nervous tension as a Siri/Alexa product lookalike ("Kimi") becomes the focus of capitalist and moral interrogations. It's not saying anything you can't find on a Deep State Reddit thread, but might be a swift enough cat-and-mouse chase for some — coming in at under 90 minutes.

Zoë Kravitz stars as the agoraphobic Angela Childs, who’s suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She spends her days texting her neighbor/crush Terry (Byron Bowers) as part of their window-gazing romance and doing her job listening to Kimi consumer recordings to optimize its responses. On a particular morning, Angela listens to a flagged audio clip that appears to hide a woman's cries for help — but only she seems worried. Superiors tell her to ignore the hidden message because of legal fees or unwanted attention, but Angela can't let the appeals be ignored. Even if her company wants to bury the evidence...

David Koepp's screenplay isn't subtle by any standards. Due to the film's lean running length, there's little fluff between Angela's alarming discovery and the ultimate crisis response at the end of the movie. 

Angela's reactions are punchy, the narrative leaps forward with each milestone event and Soderbergh shapes Kimi into a continual-motion speedster flick like Run Lola Run. It's a method that values breakneck forward momentum but neglects to comment further than face-value anxieties in a mid-COVID world. Koepp urges viewers to always read the fine print and question the digitized invasions of privacy we happily accept for efficiency's sake though even that soon becomes a background echo. The film's critique seems surface-level throughout Soderbergh's stylistic sprint.

Zoë Kravitz passionately draws from societal frustrations around women's accusations and warnings going unheard and disbelieved. Angela is a wound-up ball of stressors and fearfulness, which Kravitz's performance works through as desperation sinks deeper and deeper. 

However, the film is clearly written from a male perspective on what constitutes empowerment. Soderbergh's "light-touch" treatment of the material almost feels placatory. Kimi is one of those movies you wish had a woman's credit somewhere within the creative process. Perspective lacks, and it’s noticeable.

That's not to discredit the urgency Kravitz brings to the role of Angela, whether her character attempts to will herself outside for a breakfast date or is scampering away from dapper killers. Kravitz is commendable for her ability to express the hardships endured by those changed by the pandemic, sick of being ignored or done watching injustice.

Kimi is Steven Soderbergh's take on a kinetic corporate conspiracy thriller for the data-mining age that succeeds purely on an aesthetic level. The movie's tempo and Zoë Kravitz's tumultuous attempt to regain happiness, after so much tragedy, is a compelling watch. David Koepp's intentions to highlight socially conscious messaging aren't as impressively treated. It's the equivalent of a participation trophy, shoehorned into a tech-bro-takedown. Kimi zips and zigzags, but can feel detrimentally superficial. 

Kimi is available to watch on HBO Max (US) and on Sky TV (UK).

Matt Donato

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.