Review by Sean Boelman
Some of Netflix’s buzziest titles tend to be their heist thrillers, and Kaleidoscope hopes to join that batch with its unique storytelling gimmick. Although viewers likely won’t notice a difference resulting from the show’s unorthodox structure, it’s an all-around entertaining and well-made series.
The show tells the story of one of the most ambitious heists ever attempted in history, loosely inspired by the time that millions of dollars worth of bonds were flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Anything resembling reality is lost here, as the plot itself plays out more like an outlandish heist thriller.
The thing that makes Kaleidoscope stand out from other heist series is its gimmick. The series is designed where its eight episodes are presented to viewers in a randomized manner, giving each viewer a different experience — well, at least to an extent. The last episode is the same for everyone, and the episodes are in pre-set batches that restrict the order to a total of 24 options.
It’s certainly an interesting idea, and it shows a lot of potential for future uses. However, the execution leaves something to be desired. Ending the series on the heist but showing the aftermath beforehand just creates confusion — not really suspense. This format would also be better-suited to a weekly format rather than a binge, but that would make it more complicated.
The thing that makes any great heist is a compelling team, and this series succeeds in that regard. Granted, many of the character motivations are generic, but the eight episodes and unorthodox structure give us plenty of time to get attached to the characters. The only thing that is missing is a cohesiveness — which is partially attributable to the structure.
Although there are some interesting supporting players, this series very much belongs to Giancarlo Esposito. Esposito has such a commanding screen presence that he ends up acting circles around everyone else in the ensemble. Even when his character arc takes a generic turn, he manages to bring so much emotion to the table.
The heist itself is impressively staged, an excitingly-shot set piece. It’s not the most creative in terms of how it’s pulled off — with many of the logistics being elements that are used in other cinematic heists. That being said, the production design — specifically regarding the vault — is pretty fantastic.
Kaleidoscope works as a heist thriller in its own right, although its ambitious gimmick doesn’t do much to serve or harm it. The main reason to watch it is Giancarlo Esposito, whose performance elevates an otherwise solid heist thriller.
Kaleidoscope is now streaming on Netflix. All eight episodes reviewed.