MARCH 5 ― Filmmakers ― being the creative types that they are ― have always tried to reflect and react to significant moments in history, from countless films about whichever current war that was going on to examinations of all sorts of major tragedies or triumphs that were gripping the world at that particular moment, but usually slightly later because the turnaround to make a film, from conceiving, writing, production and post-production can take a while.
Advances in technology, however, have meant that the same cannot be said about the Covid-19 pandemic that’s still engulfing the world right now, as we’ve already seen quite a few movies released during this pandemic that either directly depict the circumstances caused by the pandemic (like Songbird, Locked Down and Together) or take a more allegorical approach when depicting those same circumstances (like the terrific horror flick We Need To Do Something).
I’m positive we’ll see more of these in the near future as filmmakers get more time to see their projects out and finish their post-production process, but there are already two new arrivals in the last couple of weeks mining the same areas as the aforementioned movies, with one of them being the latest film from one of Hollywood’s most consistently excellent craftsmen, Steven Soderbergh.
Let’s jump in and see how they fare, shall we?
Having come up from the US indie scene with his Palme d’Or winning debut Sex, Lies, And Videotape and finally scoring a Hollywood triumph with Out Of Sight almost 10 years later, Soderbergh has kept his foot in both worlds.
Released on HBO Max, Kimi is his 33rd feature film, but you’d be forgiven to think that it’s the work of a hugely talented young director just starting out in the movie industry, judging from how fresh, kinetic and energetic the whole thing plays out.
Kimi is the name of an Alexa-like or even Siri type device, with the crucial difference being that the tech company launching it prides itself on having a team of actual people monitoring the device’s interactions to minimise and correct any errors.
Angela (superbly played by Zoe Kravitz, in what might be her most impressive performance yet) is one of those people, running her operation from her Seattle apartment, which is where she spends all of her time since she’s agoraphobic, made even worse by Covid-19 lockdowns and a vaguely hinted at psychological trauma, and the fact the she may have just heard a crime being committed in one of the recordings she’s being tasked to monitor.
This clearly being a tribute to how much filmmaking fun that can be had when dealing with one of those paranoid thriller setups that Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma are famous for, Soderbergh gives them a fantastic run for their money with Kimi, having a whale of a time concocting various creative ways to visually depict Angela’s agoraphobia, and mercilessly ramping up the tension that’s been expertly and neatly structured by David Koepp’s script.
It’s one of those impressively ruthless and precise thrillers that you don’t encounter much anymore these days. Miss this one at your peril.
Alone With You
Another paranoid thriller, with what’s clearly a vastly smaller budget, and again set mostly in an apartment, this time in New York.
Alone With You is slightly different from Kimi in that it flirts with more supernatural elements, making it feel more at home in the horror genre.
The woman alone in the apartment this time is Charlie (played by Emily Bennett, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film) who is excitedly preparing for the return of her girlfriend Simone from an out-of-town photography gig.
Taking us out of the apartment once in a while are flashbacks of the couple’s relationship and video calls from Charlie’s overbearingly religious mother (a suitably menacing Barbara Crampton) informing Charlie of her grandmother’s death, and from her friend Thea (Dora Madison, last seen in the great Bliss and VFW) trying to persuade her to get out of the apartment for a fun night out.
The problem is that Charlie is somehow locked in her apartment, unable to open the door due to what at first seems like a faulty door lock.
As the film progresses, rather slowly I might add, the tension ramps up in the form of glitchy video and voice calls, faulty clocks and various other ominous signs that Charlie being locked in might just be caused by supernatural forces instead of more mundane reasons like a faulty door lock.
There’s a twist at the end that will remind viewers of movies like The Free Fall or The Others, which I think most viewers will suspect anyway as we get to the more supernatural parts of the film, but there’s a tired sense of “been here, done that” with this film, especially for people who have seen Amy Seimetz’s impressive She Dies Tomorrow from 2020, which makes watching this film feel like quite a chore.
Watch this only if you have nothing else to do with your spare time.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.