'Kimi' review: Steven Soderbergh takes a small look at big tech

Zoë Kravitz stars in the latest from the master filmmaker, his third HBO Max movie in 15 months.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Steven Soderbergh, America's hardest working filmmaker, keeps things moving with "Kimi," his third film in 15 months and his 31st film overall. This crackerjack little thriller — it's largely set in one loft apartment — looks at big tech, COVID-19 and modern paranoia, and casts Zoë Kravitz as Angela Childs, a Seattle shut-in who didn't go out much before the pandemic hit. Now she doesn't go out at all. 

Angela is a voice stream interpreter for Amygdala, a tech firm that is about to launch its IPO. It manufactures Kimi, an Amazon Alexa-like device piece of AI tech that controls everything from your phone to your computer to your bedroom lights through voice prompts. Just say "Kimi" and it responds, "I'm here." And Kimi is everywhere. 

Zoë Kravitz in "Kimi."

It's Angela's job to help smarten up the technology, so she listens to error prompts from users and helps fix the responses. (There's a big difference between "play me Taylor Swift" and "play 'ME!' by Taylor Swift," for example.) In the background of one recording she hears what sounds like a woman being assaulted. When she flies it up the chain at her company she's alternately told to ignore it and bring it to her superiors. It turns out that Amygdala has a vested interest in that recording not being heard, so Angela is suddenly the target of people who want her silenced. 

Soderbergh, working from a pared down script by David Koepp ("Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible"), builds on our fears of Big Brother and the ways technology companies know every last detail about their users. He also cleverly flips the tech user dynamics in a whizz-bang finale that is worth the payoff. Tech taketh away, but it giveth as well. 

Kravitz is a smart, nimble modern heroine, and having sad-eyed emo magician Derek DelGaudio play a tech goon is an inspired piece of casting. And Soderbergh — coming off of last year's Detroit-set "No Sudden Move," heading toward "Magic Mike's Last Dance" — continues to be thoroughly, and thrillingly, unpredictable. "Kimi" is a small movie that is just as big as it needs to be. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Kimi'

GRADE: B

Rated R: for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity

Running time: 89 minutes

On HBO Max