Review by Sean Boelman
The Screenlife method of filmmaking started out with horror film Unfriended, but Timur Bekmambetov has since expanded its reach beyond the genre. The new thriller Profile utilizes this medium brilliantly, delivering constant edge-of-your-seat tension that allows this to be one of the scariest movies to come out in quite a while.
The film follows a British journalist investigating ISIS recruitment practices who begins to get drawn in by her recruiter. Given the fundamentally virtual nature of the narrative, Bekmambetov’s format is well-suited for this film, and it feels like a natural way of telling this story rather than a gimmick.
Perhaps the thing that keeps the Screenlife approach from being as distracting here as it has been in past instances is that Bekmambetov does an excellent job of building tension. Every single thing the audience sees on screen adds to the anxiety that they feel as the stakes are raised every step of the way.
Bekmambetov’s film has a lot of moving pieces, compensating for the fact that the shooting style itself is somewhat static. He finds the right balance of what to show, with enough going on to keep the frame interesting but not too much for it to feel busy. The soundtrack is also used well in creating atmosphere.
Admittedly, the film could have done a bit better in addressing its themes of journalistic ethics. Although the film (rightfully) takes a stance against terrorism, it doesn’t fully explore the journalistic issues that arise with a reporter putting herself in this situation. Still, even if it doesn’t have the most substance, it is undeniably entertaining.
The character development is also lacking. Although we immediately sympathize with the protagonist because of her situation, the backstory she is given is minimalistic. Eviction notices and messages from a worried boyfriend add subplots that are straightforward and cliched, adding little to the character’s arc.
That said, the two lead actors are both excellent. The success of a Screenlife film is significantly dependent on the quality of its performances, and Valene Kane and Shazad Latif do a great job of carrying the film. Latif, in particular, is impressive as the deceptively charming and horrifying recruiter.
Profile works extremely well as a thriller despite (or maybe thanks to) the use of the Screenlife format. This film will undoubtedly grip viewers from beginning to end with its suspenseful script and strong performances.
Profile hits theaters on May 14.