WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Kimi, streaming now on HBO Max.
Steven Soderbergh revisits some of the most iconic premises in cinematic thriller history and sets them on a precise trajectory abundant in topical social commentary with his latest film, Kimi. A thoughtful and energetic mash up of Hitchcock’s paradigm shifting Rear Window and Tony Scott’s prescient Enemy of the State, Kimi explores the relationships between people and the invasive technologies they invite into their home for the sake of convenience at the cost of privacy. The tension between these two existential forces has never been so intense and the protagonist, Angela Childs, is a complicated heroine but the film’s core functions around overcoming the trauma of abuse and merely uses these broader themes as a backdrop for this exploration.
Kimi is the human component behind a ubiquitous digital assistant that is all too common in many homes across the prosperous world and goes by many names. While going about the routine of her daily corporate eavesdropping to enhance the functionality of her company’s flagship device she overhears something that she cannot ignore despite all of the adamant advice to the contrary. Despite a crippling mental illness, she decides without any reservation to do what she can to seek justice for a fellow survivor while being hunted by killers and shadowy tech tracking wizards. Between the burglaries, breaking and entering, white collar crime, kidnappings and murder, the true original sin is almost overlooked but Kimi doesn’t allow it to become an afterthought.
Angela suffers from debilitating agoraphobia as a result of sexual assault and has found a career path that allows her to work from home. She is a voice analyst for Amygdala Corporation and their Kimi appliance which mimics the household utility of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. Amygdala is on the verge of going public which would generate an immense financial windfall for its executives, chief among them CEO Bradley Hasling. Angela discovers however, ironically through a Kimi device, that Hasling raped a woman named Samantha Gerrity and the assault, as well as her subsequent murder, are all recorded.
When Samantha threatens to expose what Hasling has done he hires someone to make her disappear which is also captured in fragmented video and audio. Angela compiles all of this information and reports it to her superiors within the company but allegedly due to the sensitivity of the issues at hand the executive managing the report will only meet with Angela in person. At this point in the film the audience has already seen Angela fail at making her way beyond the threshold of her loft despite an earnest desire to do so on more than one occasion, including the urgency of painful oral decay. There were also fruitless conversations with her mother, her lover and her therapist all centered around not only her inability to make progress in leaving her home but also in discussing it candidly.
These data points are vital in confronting the issue that the murder is only the cover up of the cover up, because the assault sits at the heart of the film’s message. Angela is responding throughout the film to micro-aggressions and infringements on her person that are centered solely around the fraught gender dynamics that are omnipresent for so many women, highlighting the specific vulnerabilities of single women who live alone and are also powerfully independent. Angela is constantly having to reprimand her Romanian colleague Darius of his inappropriate references to her physical appearance while he glibly responds that the #metoo era does not apply to him. The film also clearly identifies that Covid adds to the pressures of venturing outside but when she is confronted with the choice of sitting idly by or leaving her sacred space to seek justice, she does not hesitate.
All of her angst vanishes and she immediately sets out into a world that is loud, crowded and teeming with a lack of safety. Her fears are realized as she arrives at the corporate headquarters in an effort to expose Hasling only to be hounded by the same thugs who murdered Samantha. The subsequent harrowing escapes, digital evasions and climactic stealth slayings of the men who sought to erase her demonstrate Angela’s resilience as a force of nature. Initially motivated by Samantha’s death, Angela serenely adapts to her deadly circumstances and eschews any damsel in distress rescue. Her on screen transformation is not meant to imply that she has healed all of her traumatic scars, but it does indicate that she forced a progression to honor the suffering of someone else.
There are theories that Kimi may share a narrative universe within the same technological female empowered spaces as some other thematically relevant films but Kimi stands alone in the way it resolves and addresses Angela’s journey from self imprisonment to self actualization. She does not have the superhuman strength of an android or the awakening sentience of a hyper intelligent Artificial Intelligence and cannot summon enhanced skills from a virtual world, which makes her experience both relatable and exponentially more frightening. As the movie closes she has achieved a freedom existing outdoors, a stability in her romantic relationship that had previously eluded her and built connections with her Samaritan neighbor.
Hasling is arrested but the film doesn’t linger on his or his company’s plight with any real investment. Instead it chooses to focus on Angela’s new life spent in the sunlight and though she may not be entirely free of the shadows stretching toward her from the past she has successfully navigated herself beyond their shade. The film does not address every question but the ending is ultimately extremely satisfying because despite the tangle of offenses that litter the screen it never loses sight of its pillars and uses them to lift Angela up through her own strength and resourcefulness, allowing her to define herself on her own terms and at her own pace.
To see Kimi solve a murder and topple a giant tech firm, Kimi is streaming now on HBO Max.
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