‘Profile’ Will Make You Question Your Online Friends (or Possibly the Age of Your Leftovers)
I can’t say for sure whether it was the potentially older-than-expected tacos I ate beforehand or if it was the movie itself, but the further I got into Timur Bekmambetov’s Jihad-adjacent thriller ‘Profile,’ the larger the knot in my stomach got.
Valene Kane stars as Amy in Timur Bekmambetov’s ‘Profile,’ a Focus Features release. (Credit: Courtesy of BEZELEVS and Focus Features)
Amy (Valene Kane) is an intrepid British journalist in the midst of a story about young European girls being lured to the Middle East to become members of ISIS. In order to get to the heart of the story and find out not only the why but the how these girls are ending up in ISIS, Amy poses as a younger woman from a broken home that has recently converted to Islam.
She begins liking and sharing extremist videos and is soon contacted by Abu Bilel Al-Britani (Shazad Latif), a charismatic and dangerous recruiter who uses social media to lure young women to the cause.
At the behest of her editor, Vick (Christine Adams), Amy begins recording her interactions with Bilel with the assistance of the publication’s tech guru and resident Muslim, Lou (Amir Rahimzadeh) – even though she’s initially scared to include him based on his religion.
Soon, Amy finds herself immersed in the character and the life she’s created, and it begins to affect her personal and professional relationships, as well as her better judgment. Is this smooth-talking man really the monster she first believed him to be, or is there more to him than meets the eye?
Valene Kane stars as Amy and Shazad Latif as Abu Bilel Al-Britani in Timur Bekmambetov’s ‘Profile,’ a Focus Features release. (Credit: Courtesy of BEZELEVS and Focus Features)
In the vein of films like ‘Searching’ and ‘Host,’ ‘Profile’ takes place entirely on Amy’s computer or mobile phone in the form of Skype calls, Facebook posts, and recorded video clips. Sure, it’s a bit gimmicky, and you’re fully aware of it throughout, but for a story like this it works even if it feels like it shouldn’t.
While there are a handful of supporting characters, the heavy lifting here is really done by Kane and Latif. You can really feel the inner turmoil in Amy as she struggles to reconcile the truth with what she’s built up in her head. And while you know that Bilel likely isn’t simply a man doing bad things for good reasons, Latif gives him enough charm and bravado to make you second guess yourself at times.
The chemistry of the leads, along with some nifty editing tricks, and head-scratching plot points give the film a lot of tension and several WTF are these people thinking moments.
I’ve seen some early reviews of this that call the story “manipulative,” and I’m not entirely willing to say it’s not. I haven’t read the real-life story the film is based on – ‘In the Skin of a Jihadist’ by Anna Erelle – so I can’t definitively say it is, either.
For all I know, things in the book unraveled just as they did on the screen, and those things – or possibly the old tacos – left me feeling kind of gross, but in a good way (if that makes sense) since it takes a lot to elicit a physical response after reviewing hundreds of movies.
If you don’t like the “watching the story unravel on a computer screen” genre, ‘Profile’ isn’t for you. But if you want to feel a little queasy and question the motives of any and everyone you have an online-only relationship with, it should be right up your alley.
★★★1/2 of ★★★★★