So there I was, on a Tuesday afternoon. I was bored and exhausted, trying to deal with a Spring heatwave that reached the high 80s. I can’t stand the heat and there was nothing really to do. Should I play through Resident Evil Village and go for the Platinum trophy? Should I rewatch Breaking Bad in preparation for FINALLY sitting down to watch Better Call Saul? Or should I go out and read a book in the shade?
After a while, a notification from AMC came in on my phone telling me about a new movie, Profile. It’s a political thriller about a reporter who investigates how ISIS recruits teenage girls by her actually getting in touch with a recruiter. The trick to this film is that, like Unfriended and Searching, two movies I enjoyed very much, the entire film is presented on a single computer screen. As the director, Timur Bekmambetov, calls it, it’s a “computer screen thriller.”
The one point that he also forgot to mention was that it was also moronic and not enjoyable in the slightest. But hey, we’re all pretty forgetful every now and then, right?
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Release Date: May 14, 2021 (Theatrical)
Profile is a dramatization that follows a journalist, Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane) as she attempts to get to know an ISIS recruiter, Bilel (Shazad Latif). At first, she’s interested in trying to get a story out of him, one that will help her gain a permanent journalist position instead of a freelance one. As time goes on, she slowly but surely starts to develop romantic feelings for Bilel while presenting herself as a Muslim convert. It only gets worse from there.
What I want to make abundantly clear is this: I hold no criticisms for the actors. I think that both Valene and Shazad do a great job at playing these characters. That means a lot when the majority of the film is just staring at their faces as they talk with one another. So please keep in mind that as I tear this film mercilessly to shreds that I mean no ill will towards the actors, who did a good enough job, and I hope this serves as a good stepping stone for them to bigger and better things.
So… we good? Okay? Okay.
This was one of the most aggravating movies I’ve sat through in a very, very long time. There are a lot of different kinds of aggravating in the world, but what makes Profile so teeth-gnashing is almost entirely attributed to its main character. Sometimes it’s from a variety of reasons that clash with one another, like budgetary limits or subpar directing, but most of the problems I had come entirely from the fact that Amy, or Melody as she goes by in her Muslim persona, is an entirely unlikeable and unsympathetic protagonist.
Amy is established fairly early on as being xenophobic, afraid that one of her co-workers whose mother is from Syria, may secretly be connected to ISIS and that her cover is going to be blown because of it. This is shown in the first five minutes of the movie and from there I could just never click with her. I can understand being stressed at writing this story, but she wasn’t forced to do it. It was her idea, so the way she treats others just feels mean and rude. She frequently makes every bad decision you could possibly make in a situation like this, resulting in a series of events that spiral out of control in all of the dumbest ways.
If this was meant to be a horror movie that would be one thing, and I feel that this could have actually been edited in such a way to focus on those horrific elements but it wasn’t. We see Bilel gleefully talk about how many people he murders and shows the horrors of the war he’s committing, but instead Profile focuses on the budding relationship between the two. As a thriller, it lacks any and all real suspense since there’s nothing really to be in suspense about. Will she get the story? Frankly, who cares? As Amy becomes more invested in the gun-toting terrorist, she pushes away nearly everyone else around her.
And that would be one thing. We’ve seen before movies about how a reporter gets in “too deep” with a story they’re trying to cover. It takes a toll on their personal life as we watch them do whatever it takes to expose the truth, their own lives be damned. But Amy is never shown off as an intelligent reporter. She makes careless mistakes that endanger her life and comes across less like a skilled investigative journalist and more like an abused girlfriend thinking that her love interest is just misunderstood and that he may have loved lots of women before her, but Amy is totally the one he’s really in love with. If this is supposed to be a thriller about will she make it out alive or not, then the stakes are super low. We don’t even get an inkling of that tension until the very end of the movie.
It’s completely idiotic how she just continues to make all of the wrong mistakes until it eventually, and inevitably, comes tumbling down. Even then, you don’t feel anything for her as this social self-destruction was her own doing. It’s sensationalistic, especially when you consider that this movie is based on the real-life events of an actual journalist, Anna Erelle. She published a book based on her events with the real-life Bilel and the brief excerpt of her article shows off a very intelligent and efficient reporter. It’s almost night and day, and frankly insulting, looking at the real-life woman and her fictional counterpart and just how badly the movie portrays her.
The choice to make Profile a “computer screen thriller” was also one that probably should have been rethought. Personally, I understand why it was used, but it makes a lot of little mistakes that make the movie visually hard to follow. We see numerous tabs constantly open and cycling through an absurdly messy desktop, making it hard to figure out what’s important since our attention is divided into multiple different places. Timestamps that promise a video is going to be a certain length aren’t actually that length, and it’s too chaotic to actually watch what’s going on.
This isn’t a mystery thriller like Searching was, a movie that I only love more and more as time goes on. That movie made you feel smart, piecing together clues and scraps from its myriad of screens just enough so you could figure out twists at the same time as the characters. But here it’s just a dump of information with very little organization or thought put into it. You could argue that it mirrors Amy’s state of mind, in complete disarray at how her relationship with Bilel is throwing her well-organized life into a state of turmoil. I would argue that one, the movie never established that point, and two, even if it did, that still doesn’t make it easier to follow just what in the world is happening.
The movie only lasts for an hour and 40 minutes, but Profile feels a lot longer than it actually is. Maybe it’s the fact that the screen rarely, if ever, leaves a Skype window. Maybe it’s because the movie likes to recycle the same conversations and topics ad nauseam, but the effect is still the same. It feels long and I hate it. When the movie had a perfectly decent ending ready to go, it had to ratchet up the drama with an extra twist that extended the runtime another half hour. And by then I was done.
I respect movies too much to take my phone out when I watch them. I hate it when people are on their phone in a movie theater, but Profile was the first movie in nearly a decade to break my most cardinal rule; I took out my phone and started browsing online. I couldn’t bother watching it anymore. I was even tempted to walk out because I was just over it. I couldn’t bear to watch any more of Profile because I wasn’t going to gain any insight from it.
What would have changed in that last half hour of the movie? Would Amy go to Bilel and start a new life with him? Would she realize that everything she was doing was absolutely insane and everyone telling her to stop was right the whole time? Frankly, I didn’t care. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Profile did its very best to whittle me down, and it very nearly worked. I was pissed off when the credits rolled. I spent 10 minutes reading the actual article/book this was based on while watching that climax and I got more out of that than a nearly $3 million low-budget thriller ever could.
Do yourself a favor; stay away from Profile. Don’t bother giving it a watch. Don’t even rent it. It made me break my own rules and not even Cats could do that. That should speak miles about the quality on display here.