2022 dir. Steven Soderbergh
There’s an apocryphal quote attributed to John Maynard Keynes saying, “Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.” Every week another report comes out about how tech companies are producing another app or gadget to make our lives more convenient and connected and instead are reproducing racism and misogyny that reminds me of that quote and how silly it is to imagine they would, or could, do anything else. Into this world in February director Steven Soderbergh brought us Kimi.
Zoë Kravitz stars as Angela, a tech worker for a company making Kimi, a device similar to Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa. Angela works from home and is carrying heavy earlier trauma that makes it a supreme challenge to leave the house even after the end of Covid lockdown protocols. Her job is to help resolve Kimi’s various failures to understand as, in order to properly function, Kimi needs to understand that: pop, sodapop, soda, soft drinks, cokes and more are all terms for the same thing, mostly varying by region. Sometimes she’s resolving these issues, sometimes just figuring it out that it’s kids messing with the app, and then she encounters something much worse. The something worse threatens the bottom line of a tech firm expecting an influx of cash and they’re willing to do anything to protect it.
Soderbergh starts the film with a slow build for the first fifty minutes and then, in one of my favorite little narrative tricks, has Angela start sprinting towards the finish at the same moment the story does. As we’ve come to expect from Soderbergh, Kimi is briskly paced and terrifically scored. It’s also more thoughtful than your average thriller with Angela having to navigate harassers, creepy stalkers and misogyny broadly to her advantage to even get to the end climax.
This is no one involved’s best film but that’s a lot to ask of nearly every film. Kimi is a good bit of fun. It takes familiar tech age tropes and turns them into a thriller with a few nice spots of dark comedy that peak with Jaime Camil’s ‘uh oh’ face that few can do better. Kravitz carries the lion’s share of the story and manages to be terse, troubled and nearly joyless without making the story itself joyless. As the film comes to climax and the tech firm and tech try to carry out their respective plans we get to see which one can .exe better.
As ugly as Soderbergh paints the tech industry in the story, it still seems kinder and gentler than the real world tech industry. Murder-for-hire seems almost quaint next to Apple production contractors installing suicide nets to keep workers from flinging themselves from the roof of factories or Amazon workers having to pee in bottles as bathroom breaks would drop their productivity while the company works to bust unions or how the entire web3 scene is “Amway but everywhere you look people are wearing ugly ass ape cartoons”. But what Angela teaches us is that maybe what we need to do to heal from Covid’s isolation, from the horrors inflicted upon us by Silicon Valley, is to take down these vile firms. And if we use her methods, who knows? Perhaps all things are Kimi-possible. Thanks for reading and sorry for the Kim Possible puns!