SXSW Film Review: Profile
A cat-and-mouse game is told in first-person perspective
By Matthew Monagle,
9:00AM, Mon. Mar. 12, 2018
No one can say that Timur Bekmambetov is afraid to try new things. Over the past few years, he served as producer on two movies – Hardcore Henry and Unfriended – that unfold entirely through a first-person perspective. Now, with Profile, Bekmambetov himself steps behind the camera.
Based on Anna Érelle’s biographic In the Skin of a Jihadist, Profile follows freelance journalist Amy (Valene Kane) as she pursues a story on ISIS’s online recruitment of European women. After making contact with one recruiter, the charming Abu Bilel al-Britani (Shazad Latif), Amy begins to blur the lines between her story and her life, coming closer and closer to being swept up in Bilel’s lies.
Those curious to see if the screen-based aesthetic could escape the horror genre will be heartened by Profile. Watching Amy and Bilel circle each other through a progression of Skype calls proves that this approach is more than just a gimmick. Bekmambetov finds dozens of small ways to make this aesthetic seem essential to the narrative, including the way Amy researches the things Bilel is saying in real-time or how she uses YouTube tutorials to prepare for each call.
Which makes it all the more frustrating that Profile reduces this interesting premise to its most lurid elements. Kane is admittedly a very charismatic actor, but outside of a lot of smiling and some kind words, we're given little reason to believe there's a bigger plan in place. Worse, Profile is preoccupied by the idea that Amy might actually be falling in love with Bilel, an idea that falls somewhere between "forced" and "sexist" depending on the scene. Profile may hint that there’s more to life for screen-first narratives than just the horror genre, but this isn’t the film to make that crossover happen.
Visions, North American Premiere
Monday, March 12, 6:30pm, Vimeo Theater
Wednesday, March 14, 9pm, Satellite Venue: AFS Cinema
Thursday, March 15, 3:30pm, Paramount