Timur Bekmambetov's Profile lacks the urgency needed to make this "shot on a laptop" thriller anything but repetitive and overdone. The editing forces the film to skip tension and character progression in favor of staying "true" to the presentation of the gimmick, which is far more effective in other films that Bekmambetov himself had a producing hand in.
Director and producer Timur Bekmambetov‘s long-shelved Profile finally hits limited release, capitalizing on the hybrid found-footage sub-genre where the film is presented on a laptop, using social media and technology to unravel its story. Where Profile varies is that it is not presented in real-time, which robs the film of any tension or suspense as everything happens after-the-fact, causing the entire film to feel like a pointless gimmick that hinders the film and its characters from truly connecting with its audience. Profile is easily the weakest film that I have seen use this gimmick so far and a poor example of how a well-established filmmaker can pump out a product without ever asking himself why he bothered in the first place.
Profile follows journalist Amy (Valene Kane) as she attempts to embed herself into the ISIS recruitment channels. She makes contact with Abu Bilel Al-Britani (Shazad Latif) and what starts as a risky mission that promises a staff position and a hefty payday quickly turns into her falling for her own recruiter and questioning her own beliefs as the lines between her character and herself become blurred.
Director Timur Bekmambetov is basing his film off of a “true story” novel that was brought to the little-big-screen with the help of writers Brittany Poulton and Olga Kharina. It’s odd knowing that there are three credited script writers that have adapted a novel, because nothing about Profile feels overly-complicated or in need of extra hands.
The film primarily focuses on the relationship between Amy and Abu, with Amy’s boyfriend, editor, friend and IT rep all chiming in for minutes at a time throughout the film. Outside of those brief interactions, it’s mostly a two-person show and with that in mind, the film isn’t all that deep in terms of character exploration or even motive outside of the initial connection and the inorganic progression from friendship to potential lovers.
Bekmambetov swaps out urgency and tension for predictable and fast-paced in the sense that the film uses the technology approach to lessen the blow of the story instead of enhancing it and using it to its advantage. What I mean by that is the film takes massive shortcuts whenever it gets a chance, which usually comes in the form of abruptly ending a scene and moving onto the next by simply showing the “user” of the laptop “X” out of a clip and go into a new folder to play another clip.
The entire film is presented through this past-tense lens that robs the viewer of any sense of time or importance. A scene will start to elevate and suddenly its brought to a roaring halt and moved onto the next one.
This makes almost all of the bonding or relationship stuff feel phony as we don’t get to see the two characters grow together. We are instead forced to just assume that between video A and video B, a strong connection was formed and similarities were found. We are also left to just piece together Amy’s mental state of being as she suddenly goes from “this is just a job” to “do I have feelings for this guy?” at the click of a button.
It’s a jarring approach that essentially wastes all of the good graces that this type of storytelling can help capitalize on.
What makes matters more confusing is the fact that Bekmambetov was a producer on both Searching and Unfriended, which are two films that totally understood how to leverage this approach to movie-making to deliver something meaningful. Both of those films take advantage of the storytelling methods and use technology as a powerful and effective tool to tell their stories, whereas Profile uses it as a crutch to lean on when time comes to start progressing the story in a serious way.
Last year’s Host proved that you can use a laptop to make a thrilling and suspenseful film, which that film manages to do in about an hour, whereas Profile just drags along for nearly two, never shedding its weight of feeling like a film that’s just lazily borrowing from everything that came before it.
The only saving grace Profile has is the chemistry between Kane and Latif, which is short-changed and forced, but still somewhat plausible when it’s all said and done. Had they been given more time to flesh out their characters, then I would likely be praising their performances, but as is, they’re both fine actors that are showing range and capability, just misdirected and not given enough material to move in any real forward direction.
Profile is bottom-of-the-barrel material that feels uninspired and made for all of the wrong reasons. I’m not even sure if Bekmambetov had motive behind making this flick or if it was simply a technical exercise to say “I can”, while using a real-life story that sounds absolutely terrifying and eye-opening. Perhaps this story will be given its proper due elsewhere?