TV journalist Amy (Valene Kane) is working on a slot for a news programme that could make her career - how ISIS has been recruiting European women to their cause. Making contact with charismatic ISIS fighter Bilel (Shazad Latif), Amy adopt a new identity and profile to lure him in, but soon the lines blur between the two profiles...
Authenticity and truthfulness in a movie is always a difficult thing to grasp at. For one, authenticity isn't something that is easily defined or articulated. Truthfulness, as well, depends on the context and the circumstance. Yet, in 'Profile', it's the concept of how the movie is delivered - played out entirely on a Macbook screen - that gives it such authenticity. Up until now, "screentime" movies have primarily been used for horrors. 2015's 'Unfriended' was an exciting old-school slasher horror, played out over Skype with people being disconnected from the chat and murdered as well. 'Profile' is of the same ilk - well-worn themes and tropes, but given a new delivery method.
Valene Kane, best known to Irish audiences from her turn in 'The Fall', is a dogged journalist who chain-smokes her way through terse conversations with friends and her partner, has money problems, and is generally every journalist cliche you can think of. In a normal movie, you'd roll your eyes at it. When it's played out on video calls like this, it feels glaringly honest and vulnerable. It's only when the movie accelerates towards its end that you can begin to notice how much the concept of 'Profile' is hiding a lot of issues with the story. Still and all, you're completely gripped by it.
The dynamic that plays out between Valene Kane and Shazad Latif, who's had a fantastic turn in the otherwise patchy 'Star Trek: Discovery', is what drives 'Profile'. Both actors are able to channel convincing performances with rich textures into their video calls. You're still convinced of them in their characters, even if the story itself has become unconvincing. That's the problem, ultimately, with 'Profile'. The story becomes far too cliched by the final act, and the way in which it's built up doesn't really stand to scrutiny. There's clearly something fascinating here in the concept on screen. You only need to look at something like 'Searching', starring John Cho as a desperate father in search of his missing daughter, to appreciate how clever it is when there's a strong script with it.
'Profile', unfortunately, has more going on its rich performances and its use of the concept than in the script. Even though it's based on Anna Errelle's non-fiction book, 'In The Skin of a Jihadist', it begins to stretch credulity too fast and too far. Director Timur Bekmambetov know show to spin up tension on screen, and some sequences are nail-biting. Again, that verisimilitude given by the concept just heightens tension and it's one of the few movies that works better on a laptop than it would on a TV screen. Yet, for all its fresh ideas about execution and the daring performance by its cast, they're let down by an inconsistent script and clichés.