“Profile” is directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Ben-Hur) and stars Valene Kane (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Fall), Morgan Watkins (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Wild Bill), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery, Penny Dreadful), Christine Adams (Batman Begins, Black Lightning), and Amir Rahimzadeh (The Heights, Our Girl). This film is based on a book written by Anna Erelle titled “In the Skin of a Jihadist” and follows a woman named Amy who has been doing research on younger girls who end up joining ISIS. As part of her research, she creates a Facebook profile and connects with a real ISIS fighter named Bilel. While doing so, the two develop a bond of sorts that may affect the future of her career and her life.
Right off the bat, I just want to note that “Profile” is quite a fascinating film because it is done entirely through screens. By this I mean the screens of computers and other similar electronic devices like phones. I find it intriguing because kind of like “The Blair Witch Project” exposed back when it came out, it shows that not all movies need to be done on advanced cameras. Now whether that is a positive thing or not, that is up to the viewer. It is all subjective. But I will admit, I was somewhat skeptical on this idea because we’ve had projects like this before, and they did not sound like they were for me. One of the more notable ones I could think of is “Unfriended,” which involves a supernatural force using the account of a dead person. At the time, I just did not have any interest. And as much as some of you will *hate* me for saying this, “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2” was the much more attractive option at the box office the weekend “Unfriended” came out. I saw it theatrically for two days in a row for crying out loud! “Unfriended” got a sequel, specifically titled “Unfriended: Dark Web.” Much like the original, I never saw it. Although one film I was interested in seeing in 2018 happened to go by the name of “Searching.” The film received incredibly positive reviews from critics and average moviegoers. I saw a lot of movies in 2018, but unfortunately “Searching” was not one of them, and I cannot say I have tuned into it since. But “Profile” takes elements of those recently mentioned films because it is almost completely showcased through a screen capture. At times, this film felt more like a fast-paced and unusual Twitch or YouTube stream than an actual flick. Despite not having much detail to work with other than what is on a computer screen, the film nevertheless manages to keep an insane pace from start to finish. I was never bored or uninterested with what was going on. To be completely honest, “Profile” is almost the most intense film I have watched this year.
Not only does it deal with somewhat relevant true events, not only does it take a successfully creative approach to the art of filmmaking, but it is a film that makes the most of what it has. This is my first foray into the endless computer screen camera movie approach, or screenlife is some might call it, and I think I may want to see more, specifically if they are as good as this. Now I am not going to say I will remember every bit of “Profile” by the end of 2021, but it is a marvelously crafted picture from start to finish that sounds offish when you hear the technical aspects, but works completely when you implement the story and narrative into it. When war and movies are put together in the same sentence, you would usually expect something big and cinematic like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Dunkirk.” “Profile” does a really good job at showcasing war in cinema from an alternate point of view. I remember when I first heard about ISIS in 2014 and I would see real life footage of the action in history class. Seeing ISIS in this film sort of took me back to that time in one way or another and at times it reminded me of how a lot of modern history is told. If you have seen shootings, protests, or other serious events in recent years, you’d notice that they would often be shot on a phone, either through a pre-recording or live video on a service like Facebook Live or Periscope (RIP). And sometimes they would be shot in a vertical aspect ratio, or as some people call it, “the wrong way” to take pictures or video. “Profile” is successful in its attempts to show grit or danger by utilizing modern technology that may seem odd for a cinematic picture, but somehow ends up being executed brilliantly.
I have talked quite a bit about the film’s technology, but it is one of the biggest standouts from start to finish. Nevertheless, it does not take much away from the characters. To be specific, Amy, the journalist and main protagonist of the film, and Bilel, the ISIS fighter whom she constantly talks to over video. This film does a really good job at showcasing the stress on Amy’s side and a mix of classiness and terror on Bilel’s side that makes the movie stick the landing and blend some delicious flavors together for an exciting outcome. I do not want to spoil much, but this movie’s hesitancy to go big on the technology does not mean it automatically suffers when it comes to delivering a story. The film’s plot does get a little ludicrous, but maybe not on the level of “Sharknado.” That may be one minor problem of the film, but it is also a blessing because it is also what makes the film attention-grabbing. Nevertheless, giant leaps are giant leaps, and by the end, it almost jumps the shark and the jaws continue to drop. Is it exciting? Yes. But does the movie feel as real in the end as it does in the beginning? Not really.
In the end, “Profile” is a tiny yet captivating little thriller. I do not see the screenlife genre being my new favorite trend in filmmaking, but it is one that I simultaneously welcome because of how good “Profile” turned out. I think the cast is really good, the way they went about filming this movie in just a short amount of time is rather impressive, and despite some absurdity at particular points, the film is still worth watching. It is not playing in many theaters right now, but if you have the time, I would say give it a shot. I’m going to give “Profile” a 7/10.
One other thing I want to point out, and I cannot say this will totally affect my viewpoints on “Profile,” is that this film was first shown to the public in 2018. Although it never got a big public theatrical run until May of this year. I do not know why that is, but this kind of reminds me of the end of 2020 where Disney/Fox dumped some of its long-finished films like “The New Mutants” or “The Empty Man” into theaters. Part of me feels like they just decided to release it now as an excuse to say they put it in theaters because it has been in the can for so long that it needs to go. It was already competing against “Spiral,” “Army of the Dead,” and “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” This film was not too expensive to make, but I feel like Focus Features had little faith in it. I barely saw any marketing, and I did not even pay to see the movie. I was given a free screening online. It just felt like the studio said, “Hey, here’s a movie!” 2021 looks like it’ll be a fine year for movies. There are a lot of big ones coming out, but I feel like “Profile” is another victim of the COVID-19 crisis where the film was just dumped into theaters just for the sake of it. Heck! The film has not even made its budget back yet! I wish everyone involved in this movie well in their careers, but from a distribution standpoint, this was not a victory. Again, this does not affect my score, but in the supposedly changing landscape of film, this is one of the trends that unfortunately continues.
“Profile” did release theatrically on May 14th, but it is highly unlikely you will find a theater near you playing the movie. If that is the case, it is also available to rent on VOD right now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for Zack Snyder’s new film “Army of the Dead.” I saw this movie at a Cinemark the weekend it came out, and I cannot wait to talk about it. I will also have upcoming reviews for “A Quiet Place Part II,” “In the Heights,” and my commitment to seeing this right away is not guaranteed, but I should be seeing “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” this week depending on my schedule. Also coming soon, I will be doing another update on my complete Blu-ray collection. I’ve done it in recent years, and I think it is time, now that I am reaching 500 posts, to give you my latest status update. Hope you are excited, because I cannot wait to share the latest details with you. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Profile?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think about the screenlife genre? Is it cool? Too small? Gimmicky? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!