Profile – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams, Amir Rahimzadeh, , Morgan Watkins, Emma Cater
In cinemas August 6th
This film is based on the true story In The Skin of a Jihadist written by French journalist Anna Erelle. In this version, the events are transported from France to the UK and Anna becomes Amy (Kane).
She is a struggling freelancer who is living from advance to advance rather than paycheck to paycheck and is somewhat jaded when she sets up fake social media profiles to try and attract recruiters for ISIS in order to investigate their process.
It doesn’t take long until her alter ego Melody connects with Baliel (Latif) who is keen to get to know her better. In no time at all, he is declaring undying love and trying to get her to join him in Syria. As she gets to know him better, she struggles to separate her real life from her new persona and she quickly finds herself sucked into the very networks he’s investigating.
This tells the story through Facebook posts, video chats, internet searches, emails and messages. This is a trope that has been used before but personally, after 16 months of video chats and online existence thanks to CoronaVirus restrictions, I honestly struggled with this artistic choice. I should point out that the film was actually first shown in 2018 as part of the Berlin Film Festival so at the time the idea probably worked. However, I think a lot of people are very jaded by online interactions at the moment.
That aside Kane gives a great performance as Amy. Thanks to the multiple simultaneous calls and windows her character employs we can see her effortlessly jump between the breezy Amy and the easily influenced Melody. Unfortunately, the plot becomes ludicrous as the story progresses but having not read the book I can’t comment on whether or not the real-life story took similar tangents.
This runs out of steam long before the end and I do feel it would have benefitted from a more traditional filming style. There are too many contrived moments employed to keep the story “online” which completely take you out of the story.
Erelle’s original idea to investigate these groups was a good one and it is honestly scary to see how easily the targeted girls are influenced by the malevolent men who seek them out online. Unfortunately, the original reasons for telling this story get somewhat lost along the way. This movie suffers from the storytelling approach used which is a shame as it could have been a wonderful tool for raising awareness.