You know, I write these movie reviews week in and week out and not once have I been hailed as brave. Profile shows the real dangers of journalism! Sure, writing movie reviews is maybe a little less dangerous than feigning interest in joining ISIS in order to write about their recruitment methods. But the way I see it, journalists are journalists!
In Profile, Amy (Valene Kane), a British journalist, goes undercover online for the purpose of writing about ISIS. She is researching the ways in which the organization recruits young, vulnerable European women. Amy creates a fake Facebook account under the name Melody and gets to work.
It is not long before she is contacted by Abu Bilel Al-Britani, or Bilel (Shazad Latif) for short. Once the two are in contact, they message one another and talk via Skype nearly every day. As their conversations become deeper and more personal, Amy gets sucked in by Bilel and starts to lose sight of her original mission.
In the same vein as 2015’s Unfriended & 2018’s incredibly underrated Searching, Profile is told completely through a screen. Every chat, every Skype call, every file opened and picture downloaded, we see as if we are the hand moving the cursor. For some reason I am always apprehensive going into these movies. I fear that the gimmick will get tiring and I will be left with a nothing story. After being so surprised by Searching, I still had my doubts about Profile. Thankfully, I was met with a tense story full of uncertainty.
A Feeling of Helplessness
The important thing with these movies is the hook. What angle are they going for? With Unfriended, it was horror. With Searching, it was a mystery. Profile, on the other hand, is a thriller. Following along as Amy leans further and further into her character is at once exciting and terrifying. Seeing her forget to move something in the background that may give away her true identity or start to type something that reveals too much is horrifying.
We are left with an utterly helpless feeling. The urge to shout at her to prevent her from making a mistake is strong. That feeling helps to drive the tension in the story. We are experiencing everything, seemingly, in first-person, but we are incapable of making the decisions that usually come with that point of view.
In addition to the overwhelming feeling of helplessness, a big part of what makes the film work is the chemistry between actors. For most of the movie, our focus is on Amy and Bilel. The chemistry between Kane and Latif feels natural. It really feels as if we are watching the two get to know each other in the real time. We slowly but surely feel how she slips under his spell but we can also see how he is not quite sure if she is who she says she is. It’s a balancing act, as both clearly have different feelings than those we can see. We are never fully let in due to the nature of the set-up.
This leaves us questioning how the two really feel and if we personally believe what they are telling one another. By keeping us guessing, it is just another way to bring the audience into the story. Between this and the first-person storytelling, it is impossible not to feel like you are in a three way call, in which you are being completely ignored. This would, of course, be an awful feeling in real life. As an audience member watching a movie, though, it is thrilling. It keeps interest at a steady high right until the very end.
A Second Life
Profile is a tense, well-crafted thriller that may get lost in the shuffle this spring. As more and more movies are being released into theaters every week and audiences are slowly easing back into their local cinemas, the film could very well go unseen. It’s a shame because it is one of the better movies released so far this year. Hopefully it can get the recognition it deserves. Maybe it’s meant to live on streaming – where people can watch it on their laptops and feel even closer to the story.