Film Review: Profile

STUDIO: Focus Features | DIRECTOR: Timur Bekmambetov | CAST: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams, Amir Rahimzadeh, Morgan Watkins, Emma Cater
SPECS: R | 105 min. | Mystery thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Unfolding almost entirely on a laptop screen, Profile seems like it could have been made during the pandemic, but its 2018 release date tells us otherwise.

Kazakhstani director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Ben-Hur) has delved into the tech-based cinematic world before, producing such efforts as the horror film Unfriended and the gripping drama Searching. This time the filmmaker is calling the shots of a film based on a real incident, and it’s riveting from the first computer image to the last.

In Profile, a young British journalist named Amy (Valene Kane, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) poses as a 20-year-old named Melody to investigate how Isis recruits young women to join its cause. Going online and using Skype, Amy begins a relationship with a terrorist leader named Bilel (Shazad Latif, Star Trek: Discovery), telling him she’s recently converted to Islam, sparking in her an interest in fighting for the radical Islam cause. The persuasive Bilel, who’s based on the frontlines of Syria where bombs continually explode and people are gunned down around him, is not only interested in guiding Amy in her quest, but will also marry her.

The fraught back-and-forth between Amy, the so-called newly-awakened revolutionary, and Bilel, her charismatic mentor and future husband, comprise most of the film’s screen time. Occasionally, their interaction supplemented by the journalist’s frenzied conversations with her harried editor (Christine Adams, TV’s Black Lightning), who attempts to guide her through the tricky cyber situation, and her flustered boyfriend (Morgan Watkins, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Between her correspondence, texting, surfing the internet for information and shifting identities, Amy is exposed to  some of the horrific images of carnage sent to her by Bilel.  At the same time, she must convince him that’s she’s the real deal, ready and willing and able to give up her life to join him in Syria to carry out his murderous agenda in the name of the Caliphate. In the process, the two actually forge a very unusual and perversely romantic relationship.

As unlikely as it seems, Profile holds your attention from the get-go, despite its flurry of ever-changing windows opening and closing on computers, messages being typed out and answered on computer screens, and a number of disturbing images flashing on the screen. Those fearful of sensory overload should stay away. But those in search of a gripping, true-life suspense film told in a unique way, well, this one’s for you.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.