May 11th, 2021
STARRING: VALENE KANE, SHAZAD LATIF, CHRISTINE ADAMS
DIRECTED BY: TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Similar to the found footage genre, I find the new style of FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype movies to be hit and miss. The visual alone has to be something the viewer is up for. We all spend the majority of our days looking at screens, looking at our phones, and having conference calls over zoom, so when a movie is done this way for the full runtime, there’s no room for error. Profile is based on a true story, from Anna Erelle’s novel In the Skin of a Jihadist, about a journalist that created a fake online profile to communicate with a known terrorist and human trafficker; Doing it all in the hopes of infiltrating and bringing him to justice. Director Timur Bekmambetov kept me engaged, sucking you in with the thrilling process of how someone can become too deep into a story, and once you’ve sunk into the void, you’re all of a sudden witnessing one of the more thrilling movies of 2021.
Amy (Valene Kane) is a journalist in London, researching stories about women in their early 20’s-mid-30’s, that have become involved with men in the middle east, lured into converting to Islam, which has led to them being sex trafficked, used as suicide bombers, and separated from their families. She creates a fake Facebook profile, shares videos of a horrific beheading from known terrorist Abu Bilel Al-Britani (Shazad Latif), befriends multiple people within social groups relating to ISIS, and through constant searching, ends up personally connecting with Abu Bilel. Once this connection is made, the game begins, with Amy changing her name to Melody, covering her head in a hijab, and having her editor-in-chief Vick (Christine Adams) set up monitoring devices on her computer. It starts as an in-depth undercover investigation, but with each conversation, closer connections are made, leading to Amy sinking into the spell of Abu’s romance, and pushing back against her own ways of living.
The run-time of Profile is one-hour and forty-five minutes and it’s a whirlwind of screen sharing, skype calls, online chats, and split screen conversations. Similar to the horror movie Host, what makes Profile engaging is the strength of the two lead actors and the screenplay by writers Britt Poulton, Olga Kharina, and Bekmambetov. An important factor is how real and engaging the conversations can become and that’s exactly why the combo of writing and performances pulls us in. Kane does a great job of blending her personal vs. undercover self, while Latif does an excellent job of revealing the human inside of a terrorist. In some moments all the ringtones, screen switching, and the tic tic tic of the computer can become distracting, but when the actual narrative at hand becomes thrilling, all of that blends into the background.
There’s also a balance of two sides: there is the “relationship” of Amy and Bilel, which becomes a sneaky game, wondering who is playing who; Is there a minor attraction, or is this a real example of someone being seduced? The other side is her editor Vick, the IT tech Lou (Amir Rahimzadeh) who listens in on calls, and her actual boyfriend Matt (Morgan Watkins) who is slowly losing the women he loves in this process. There’s a slow burning, uncontrollable slipping that is going on in Profile, something that we are witnessing with our own eyes, and by the end it’s wild to fathom that this could happen and that we’re watching a true story.
The major question becomes if you can withstand watching characters have Skype chats, with their computer screens constantly active, and not become annoyed. For me it took a bit getting used to, where I found some settings of conversations to be preposterous, especially one where Bilel is chatting outside, while playing soccer with friends, or just the sheer fact that every conversation is a video chat. But as we must suspend our beliefs to imagine Star Wars, we must also understand that it all fits within the drama of the narrative. By the end of Profile I was completely sucked in, an edge of your seat thriller, that pushes the story to the brink. Timur Bekmambetov has displayed to the world that these video-chat dramas can be incredibly thrilling and an even better example of how journalists can put their lives on the line to get the story. Profile is enthralling to the point where you don’t want to log off.
PROFILE PREMIERES IN SELECT THEATERS THIS FRIDAY MAY 14TH
Written by: Leo Brady