2015’s Unfriended, 2018’s Unfriended: Dark Web, and Searching brought the horror and mystery genres into the digital age. Telling a story strictly from the perspective of applications such as Skype and Facebook modernized scenarios such as a missing persons case or an angry, evil ghost. It’s a modern container that includes all the bells and whistles of connectivity as we know it. While also figuring out ways to cultivate suspense and intrigue with actors and actresses who aren’t necessarily in the same space. Like certain tropes as seen with found footage movies, you want to see how far you can push it without it losing its muster.
Profile, first premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2018 is based on a book named In the Skin of a Jihadist by French journalist Anna Erelle. Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane) is a young freelance journalist that is trying her best. The film briefly shows that she’s trying to make ends meet looking for the next big story. The film wastes no time in entering what that story is. Whittaker is investigating ISIS’s online recruitment of European women. For that to happen, she has to go undercover with a brand-new alias named Melody Nelson. She contacts an ISIS soldier named Abu Bilel al-Britani (Shazad Latif) based in Syria through his Facebook profile. They develop a repertoire in order for Amy to get information for the story.
Director Timur Bekmambetov worked as a producer on the Unfriended movies, 2018’s Searching, (and the upcoming sequel). Thus, he’s very comfortable in the tech app playground that Profile unveils its story upon. The movie opens similarly as the other movies did. Profile’s main character fiddles with their music as they open up the apps that they need to enter the main crux of the movie. Bekmambetov tries to build suspense in various ways. While Amy is getting in deep, she spots a story online of a teenage girl who went to an ISIS camp to marry a soldier. Unfortunately, soon after, she tries to escape and is then killed. In conversations with Abu, she has documents and notes in order to stay in character. There is also someone she works with named Lou (Amir Rahimzadeh) who coaches and also cautions her not to get too emerged in this world. Throughout the film, you see where Amy dissipates and the illusion of Melody takes precedent as conversations go on. Abu, although committing these crimes, is charming towards Amy and promises her the world.
The thing that both Unfriended and Searching had going for it was those were films that knew what they were. Unfriended was a movie about a friend group who are not only terrible to each other, but did something that ultimately leads to someone’s death. The ghost then goes for revenge one-by-one. Searching was about a father in the frantic search for his daughter. Within that was an emotional story of him learning things about her through her social media posts. Profile has that in this authentic story of women being essentially brainwashed. It elects to follow the basis of a relationship brewing between Amy and Abu. It may be understandable given how Amy’s life was presented, but a little far-fetched given that it’s things she can change. She has a devoted boyfriend named Matt (Morgan Watkins) who tries to help her in any way possible. Her best friend Kathy (Emma Cater) takes the part of an intrigued onlooker. Why would she decide to divulge so much information and jettison safety for a dangerous stranger?
Profile is a buildup of conversations and well wishes between two characters. When the twist comes, it’s hardly surprising or shocking. The real heart-stopping moments come in the latter half of the third act. Everything works better if you view the movie through the lens of someone being knowingly deceitful and the other wishing for a blissful life that can never be. At one point, Amy cuts out any safeguards to talk to Abu alone and share personal heartaches. Abu almost appears like a genuine person – like an intoxicating dinner smell that leads a hungry person to dinner. Profile has the foundation for a thought-provoking thriller that shows flashes of promise. If only it could decide which thoughts it wanted to invest in more.
Photo Credit: Focus Features