" ...seen better through Jimmy Stewart’s binoculars"
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"An agoraphobic Seattle tech worker uncovers evidence of a crime."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
With 1954’s Rear Window, Alfred Hitchhock, along with writers John Michael Hayes and Cornell Woolrich, created an impossibly-tight thriller: a murder mystery staged within the restricted confines of an apartment. This formula has been recreated numerous times with various degrees of success. Now, in the era of COVID and a shift to WFH as normalcy, such a blueprint seems perfect for a modern-day thriller. Everyone is home, everyone is watching, and everyone is online.
Kimi is set up as a digital age Rear Window where the protagonist is a remote employee working as support on the home AI product, “Kimi” for tech-start up Amygdala (please, go ahead and Google that one). Listening to help desk streams, Angela (Zoe Krativz) overhears an assault - a possible murder. Even though Angela is agoraphobic and certainly set in a routine, she wants to do the right thing. Like Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferies from over sixty years ago, Angela obsessively starts looking for clues in order to speak up. After all, silence is not always golden. For close to thirty minutes, Kimi is a clever, in-the-now show… until it devolves into a cliche chase-movie with heaps of eye-rolling convenience and stupid bad guys.
Kimi is written by David Koepp and directed by Steven Soderbergh; two professionals who know how to build suspense and capitalize on the manipulation of making what is safe become scary (homework time: check out Koepp’s Stir of Echoes and Soderbergh’s Out of Sight). Perhaps, the two are now playing things too safe themselves now as Kimi’s initial edge quickly becomes chew-toy soft. With Kimi, they present an acceptable, if brain-dead, romp through Seattle full of every thriller cliche from the 90s: a Russian super-hacker, an apartment undergoing construction with tools of all types in easy reach, the nosy neighbor turned super-savior, and the ultimate deus ex machina in Kimi, the AI.
The kicker is that Kimi could have been a thick conspiracy thriller where Angela’s own neuroses could have twisted her role into that of an unreliable narrator. One where the viewer is begging to know if what Angela heard was a murder - or merely a poor WiFi connection. Angela could have been a desk-jockey sleuth tracking breadcrumbs with each mouse click. Instead, she was placed into an average mystery with a serviceable conclusion.
Kimi is one that has been seen before - and seen better through Jimmy Stewart’s binoculars.