Profile Movie Review
An investigative journalist catfishes a handsome ISIS recruiter via Skype in the somewhat compelling if slightly underwhelming thriller Profile. Shot over a mere nine days, the movie, from Timur Bekmambetov, is told through a series of video calls and screen shares.
It’s a movie that looks like it was shot during the pandemic. Even though it wasn’t.
Bekmambetov holds your attention well enough, ratcheting up the quasi-tension as the two develop a false bond on false pretenses. Amy (Valene Kane) is low on cash and stuck in a strained relationship, and desperately needs to land a major story; Bilel (Shazad Latif), meanwhile, just wants a wife and surely has no ulterior motive. The two circle each other from afar, the line between mission and emotion blurred.
Though comparing two movies made by completely different filmmakers, with different plots and cast, isn’t entirely fair, Profile bears striking resemblance to Searching--for obvious reasons. Interestingly, even though Profile was released three years after Searching, both made their debuts on the film festival circuit just a month apart.
While Profile didn’t deserve to collect dust for several years, it’s understandable that Searching was raced to theaters… and this one wasn’t. With a more accessible story, a recognizable cast, and a cleverer use of screens, Searching was a true crowd pleaser. Profile is a thriller, but relies heavily on the confusing relationship that develops between Amy and Bilel.
In short, it’s less of a crowd pleaser.
Both Kane and Latif deliver strong, fiery performances, and the two share great chemistry with each other, despite never appearing in the same room together. Kane, of course, gets to do the heavy lifting, as the movie is told from her perspective and we get to see her emotional journey as she is in part wooed by her counterpart’s charm. Inspired by a true story (translation: most of it is fiction), Profile is much more grounded than Searching, and Bekmambetov does a fine job making the entire movie feel real.
Even still, there isn’t quite enough here to warrant a full-length movie. Bekmambetov, who co-wrote the film with Britt Poulton and Olga Kharina, layers the story with questionable subplots, including constant exchanges with Amy’s cutthroat editor, who fluctuates wildly between being wholly unscrupulous and fully empathetic, and a real relationship that is clearly filler. The central plot, too, is quite straightforward, and Profile leans too hard on the drama and too little on the investigative journalism aspects of the story, which would be more conducive to this kind of format.
Generally entertaining but far from spellbinding, Profile makes due with its confining format but is never able to transcend it. It’s the kind of movie worth watching if you stumble upon it while flipping channels (does anyone “flip channels” anymore?), but not worth traveling to Syria for. No matter how good looking the man is.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.