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Review: Profile – “Entertains and works as a modern-day online thriller”

Profile examines the world of online ISIS recruitment of vulnerable young women. It tells the story of Amy (Valene Kane – The Fall and Rogue One), a journalist who creates a false online profile in order to engage with and expose ISIS recruiters who attempt to persuade and indoctrinate young women into abandoning their life to live what they are led to believe would be an idyllic life in ISIS-controlled Syria. Through a series of online video calls, Amy meets Bilel (Shazad Latif – The Pursuit Of Love and Toast Of London), a man who claims to live as a commander of ISIS soldiers in Syria and falls in love with her. The lines of reality become blurred as Amy’s own real-world life begins to spiral out of control as she is drawn further and further into Bilel’s world.

The film plays out entirely on Amy’s laptop screen as she jumps from window to window, opening messages, image files and holding several conversations at once which keeps the narrative flowing at quite a pace. The film demonstrates not only the dangers of online recruiters for all forms of extremism but also how quickly information can be used against innocents.

This is somewhat of a departure for director Timur Bekmambetov previously known for the Mark Millar adaptation of Wanted with Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy as well as the never-completed Nightwatch series of films. His usually hyper-violent, all-action sequences give way to a single shot of a laptop screen which was previously seen in 2014’s Unfriended, on which Bekmambatov has a producer credit. Here the action is driven by Amy’s lightning-quick navigation of her screens, with suspense being built not by questions of real-world danger but rather if she will choose the correct login for her next Skype call.

Valene Kane does as much as possible with the somewhat restrictive role of Amy, the journalist desperate to not only deliver the story, but also make her rent and maintain a normal relationship with her boyfriend. The stand-out performance is from Shazad Latif who plays the ISIS recruiter Bilel with flashes of charm and cold-blooded cruelty.

The film entertains and works as a modern-day online thriller. But there are issues with Amy’s motivations and changes of heart which see her object to being paired with a Muslim colleague for tech support for fear of him blowing her cover to then accepting him without question in the next scene. Her transformation from world-weary journalist to someone who is genuinely engaged emotionally with Bilel at the expense of her own relationships feels rushed and unjustified, with several leaps in their relationship that appear to come from nowhere.

Based on the book ‘In The Skin Of A Jihadist’ by French journalist, Anna Erelle (not her real name) which tells of her time undercover as she gained Bilel’s trust and access to a world seldom seen other than by young and vulnerable girls who fall foul of men like Bilel. Profile warns of the dangers of extremism in the modern era and how easily online extremism ensnares and harms those most vulnerable in our society.

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