Reviewed by Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenwriters: Britt Poulton, Timur Bekmambetov, Olga Kharina
Based on: In The Skin of a Jihadist by Anna Erelle
Cast: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams, Morgan Watkins
Release Date: May 14th, 2021
Anna Erelle, a French journalist with a Parisian magazine, spent a few weeks undercover in 2014 while researching the subject of jihadi brides.
The result was a book published in 2015: In The Skin of a Jihadist, which culminated with a fatwa from ISIS, a change of her name and residency location, a temporary loss of her dog and the addition of police protection, courtesy of the state of France.
Director Timur Bekmambetov created Profile, with screenwriters Britt Poulton and Olga Kharina, basing the plot on Erelle’s adventures. The film follows British freelance journalist Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane) as she goes into deep undercover, while trying to expose an ISIS recruiter of young women on social media. After creating a Facebook account for a nineteen-year-old Melody Nelson, a recent convert to Islam residing in East London, she starts receiving messages from Abu Bilel (Shazad Latif). Bilel, a London-born Isis fighter, has a charming, flirtatious personality and muscular physique, which he harnesses to recruit young women to join him in Syria. The plot occurs on a number of computer screens and cell phones and follows Amy’s and Bilel’s dual games and manipulations, which spiral down to a scary outcome for Amy.
Valene Kane portrays Amy as a journalist who is “hungry” and will go to any length to publish a story that may give her a permanent position and financial security. She goes through a facial transformation, from a twenty-six-year-old savvy reporter to a soft spoken nineteen-year-old convert, wearing hijab and other traditional Muslim garb, while finding herself sucked into a plot for which she is not prepared for.
Shazad Latif plays Bilel as a charming, confident and good-looking alpha male who will not take no for an answer. He piles Melody with loving text messages, culminating with live Skype video conversations.
Though the momentum of Profile keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, the screenplay moves too fast and lacks comprehensive details, thus leaving the last climactic act with limited credibility. Since the entire story occurs on computer screens, scouting for filming locations was not necessary. The entire film was shot inside a London house in ten days. English and Arabic are spoken throughout.
Profile won the Panorama Audience Award at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival in 2018.
105 minutes Rated: R © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer