Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA, 2022. New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by David Koepp. Cinematography by Steven Soderbergh. Produced by David Koepp, Michael Polaire. Music by Cliff Martinez. Production Design by Philip Messina. Costume Design by Ellen Mirojnick. Film Editing by Steven Soderbergh.
The global experience of the Covid-19 pandemic is sublimated into the familiar narrative conventions of a paranoid thriller in this stylishly filmed work, which starts off easy and smooth and quickly works itself up to a terrifying, climactic boiling point. Zoë Kravitz is excellent as Angela, tech support for an Alexa-like app called Kimi, her job to listen to users’ unsuccessful voice communications and create code to improve the app’s understanding of the commands it is being given.
It’s an ideal job for a woman who has been suffering from agoraphobia since before the pandemic lockdown, and whose therapy to work on this issue has not been helped by the whole world’s having had to stay inside for a significant amount of time. Of course, this is agoraphobia in the movies, which like its cinematic precedents (Copycat comes immediately to mind) has you wondering if the character is afraid to go outside or, considering the sprawling beauty of their magnificent apartment, perhaps just doesn’t want to.
Either way, Angela’s world gets flipped upside down when a recording comes in and she tweaks it in her system only to discover the sound of a distressed woman hidden on the track. She notifies her superiors, who she assumes will notify the authorities, but what she gets back from them is obscure and unsupportive communication; when she finally gets through to a manager at her employing company, played in a magnificent cameo by a radiant Rita Wilson, Angela gets up the nerve to leave her house thanks to her conviction that she needs to help someone that she believes has been hurt or worse. The moment she walks out the door, however, she falls into a complicated maze that sees her pursued by dangerous men and having to outwit physical danger coming her own way.
A few too many plot turns are contrived conveniences in David Koepp’s slick screenplay, it happens often with his work that the clockwork precision of pieces that fit together too neatly chokes the spontaneity out of the experience, but Soderbergh’s zesty visuals, which include some gorgeous electronic devices heightened by neon-pipe lighting, and the genuine feeling of amped-up paranoia that the film gives into in its final act, make it a juicy, if not eternally memorable, good time.