Catfishing works both ways in Timur Bekmambetov’s new Thriller
Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted,” “Hardcore Henry”) new film was inspired by the 2015 nonfiction book, Skin of a Jihadist about a reporter who told the real story of ISIS recruitment. The film allows the actors to improv as they all shoot separately and utilize the computer screen/skype as an additional character.
Profile feels like something different as you piece together who’s seducing whom across social media and continents. The film is a stark reminder how people can plant seeds in people who are looking for connection or purpose or love for nefarious purposes. Part of the fear was how realistic I found the film that reminds me of a few news stories where young girls and men flee North America, Europe, and other countries to join ISIS or other groups. I could never figure out how it happened but from the moment Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane) a British freelancer who’s a tech luddite, pitches a ‘hot story’ to Vick (Christine Adams) I was intrigued. The cast is rounded out with Lou Karim (Amir Rahimzadeh) who is her IT secret weapon that unfolds another layer when Amy has an issue with him. All of the cast is able to bring zingers especially when Amy ignores advice from Vick who calls her out on microaggressions and sheer foolishness!
The writers and Valene work to make Amy a full flushed woman juggling bills, her fiancé Matt (Morgan Watkins) pulling her into a lift of mortgages, and sister well she oozed that she felt unmoored/unsure if she was making the right step. Her secretly wanting something to connect to when she started creating a profile to attract ISIS recruiter Abu Bilel (Shazad Latif) of Jihadi war brides I knew might be trouble. Who would fall deeply into his deep brown eyes, flowery promises and air of danger?
I was immediately on the edge of my seat watching her and imagining (hoping I’d make better choices) what I’d have done with Abu trying to entice me like he’d done other girls/women selling dreams that have NO BASIS in reality! What makes the film is just how Abu (Shazad Latif) made me tingle to see him again. Watching them interact felt real because of how they spoke to each other and how he played on her emotions. Who hasn’t said ‘he’s different with me’ or ‘I’ve invested too much time to give up on this relationship’ (or is that just me?)???
As Amy becomes more emotionally connected to Abu her relationships with her editor, fiancé and sister begin to unravel and you start to wonder has she fallen under his spell? The film deftly weaves in clues and false leads to the surprising end (since I have not read the book) that was surprisingly satisfying and unexpected.
Profile will be released to theatres on May 14, 2021
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Written by Timur Bekmambetov, Britt Poulton, and Olga Kharina
Produced by Timur Bekmambetov and Olga Kharina
Starring Valene Kane and Shazad Latif
PROFILE follows an undercover British journalist in her quest to bait and expose a terrorist recruiter through social media while trying not to be sucked in by her recruiter and lured into becoming a militant extremist herself. The unconventional thriller plays out entirely on a computer screen in the Screenlife format, pioneered by Bekmambetov.