Profile Review: Video Killed the Journalist Star


In Hollywood, cinematic experiences, like the computer screen film, were born out of a gimmick. Over the past few years, director Timur Bekmambetov (WantedBen-Hur) has invested heavily in the genre—serving as a producer on two vastly different computer screen films: Searching and Unfriended. Bekmambetov, this time, steps “behind the camera” to direct a new computer screen film, Profile. Much like the other computer screen films he produced, Profile wants so much to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of the web. It also desperately wants to be Argo or Syriana with a modern age twist. Unfortunately, it fails to live up to the level of those superior films. It does, however, have a unique hook that sets it apart and is far more engaging than the premise makes it sound.

Loosely based on French reporter Anna Erelle’s book, In the Skin of a JihadistProfile follows Amy (Valene Kane), a freelance journalist investigating ISIS’s online recruitment of European women. After the charming Abu Bilel al-Britani (Shazad Latif) contacts her, Amy’s life begins to fall apart as she gets closer and closer to being caught up in his lies.

If you’ve never seen a computer screen film before, it’s easy to be skeptical of using a computer screen to tell a story. Through the entirety of the film, you’ll only see Amy’s computer. However, the realism of the computer screen highlights real-life events from Erelle’s book.

This strict devotion to this computer screen idea is about as visually striking as a PowerPoint presentation.

You essentially become Amy as she goes back and forth between tabs and applications. Doing things like FaceTiming with her boyfriend or best friend, IMing her editor, receiving Facebook messages from Bilel, and taking various Skype calls. The most ingenious aspect of the film is how the computer screen shows what kind of person Amy is. For instance, when she reaches a tough spot with Bilel, she hangs up her call, looks for help on the Internet, then calls him back better prepared. The way Amy uses all these applications shows just how resourceful she is. 

However, the gimmick does get a little bit silly. The problem is that this concept boxes in the whole film. This strict devotion to this computer screen idea is about as visually striking as a PowerPoint presentation. In other words, it feels like sitting on your work computer screen for almost 2 hours straight.

At the same time, it’s full of plotholes and inconsistencies and an overall lack of logic. As Amy and Bilel continue to talk, their feelings for one another grow hazier with each conversation. That’s the magic of Shazad Latif’s compelling and complex performance. Hence, this situation tries to become one of the most suspenseful aspects of the film. Yet, there isn’t much in the film to convince us that Amy could end up like the others who join ISIS. Yes, Bilel is charismatic, but it’s hard to believe that someone as sensible as Amy would seriously join ISIS. The film’s time jumps add many inconsistencies in their relationship too.

Overall, Profile is a gimmick stretched to an almost two-hour runtime in a clever but exhausting thriller. Like so many films of this genre, it starts with a good hook that begins promisingly. However, it can’t sustain that momentum. It’s like a magician excessively repeating the same card trick. It might wow you at first, but will it wow you again? Not really. 

Rating: 3/5 atoms

Profile hits theaters on May 14th.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1652 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.

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