Unfriended walked so Profile could run. The screen life film (told entirely through a computer screen) trusts the audience is familiar with the logistics of social media. The title even has a double meaning: profiling a terrorist, and creating a social media profile. The film undoubtedly manipulates the audience into sympathizing with a terrorist, sharply commenting on how easy it is to form relationships through technology. Journalist Amy Whitaker (Valene Kane) is working on a new story: she creates a Facebook profile expressly for infiltrating the day-to-day living of an ISIS recruiter. Amy is trying to get a new place with her boyfriend; she’s on a strict deadline for the story; and she’s way behind on her rent. This could be her big break into full-time work… but then, Amy begins to develop very real feelings for Bilel (Shazad Latif). How far will she go for her story, especially when his promises of riches and treating her like a princess sound so enticing?
Based on a true story, I was captivated from the second it started. The tense atmosphere it develops, particularly in the final act, filled me with anxiety. The themes are heavy—gun violence, the devastating realities of war, and journalistic integrity. Some of the notes we see Amy write about what she’s learning chilled me to the bone. “The Islamic State uses kittens to lure girls into service” was one in particular that made me shudder. Amy learns much from YouTube: how to hear a hijab and an intricate backstory for her Muslim convert character. When she begins to bond with Bilel after he shares intimate information about his parents, Amy makes a series of progressively poor choices on behalf of her budding project-turned-obsession. Is she actively contemplating going to Syria? The lure of Bilel, played by strikingly handsome Shazad Latif, may be too much for her to resist…
I was completely glued to Amy’s laptop screen as the drama unfolds over Skype, via Facebook, and through text messages and video chats. Cutesy moments like a virtual cooking class still have a hint of menace; Bilel remarks: “I can’t do the fighting and the cooking!” It is weird to ever get invested in the faux romance between Amy and Bilel, but that’s exactly what happened for me. To get to Profile’s darker underside, you don’t have to look very far. Early on, Amy learns about a British teen that was stoned to death for trying to escape ISIS. What transpires in the final few minutes is far creepier and more modern in scares than I have seen in awhile. Profile is almost like an episode of Creepshow or Tales From the Crypt that gives you a modern twist of a lesson: How far would you go for a story?
Profile requests your attention in theaters on May 14th, from Focus Features.