Wednesday, May 12, 2021

She tries to expose an ISIS recruiter


     He's charming and good at creating the illusion of shared intimacy. He knows how to focus attention on the person to whom he's talking, typically a woman. He engages her, gradually working his way toward the subject of love. He rewards every expression of interest on her part with praise.
   In the new movie, ProfileShazad Latif plays Abu Bilel, an ISIS recruiter who wants to bring women to Syria, purportedly to become his bride. He portrays ISIS-controlled areas in Syria as a wholesome earthly paradise, so much better than bigoted London.
     Consisting entirely of online interactions, Profile becomes a digital two-hander that focuses entirely on the computer screen of Amy (Valene Kane), a British- broadcast journalist intent on exposing ISIS recruiting practices.
    It takes time to adjust to the movie's approach. As it unfolds on Amy's screen, the story brims with distracting intrusions. Amy's Skype relationship with Bilel plays out while Google Chrome runs in the background. (See photo above). This means there's always a chance for multi-tasking mixups and director Timur Bekmambetov milks the possibility for tension.
    What if Amy mistakenly sends Bilel a response to one of her boyfriend's texts? The boyfriend (Morgan Watkins) is looking for an apartment for the couple to share and constantly seeks Amy's input.
    The premise is credible but not everything about the story follows suit. A non-Muslin journalist in her 30s, Amy becomes involved in the life of her online companion. We're meant to wonder whether she's forgotten the purpose of her work.
       During her conversations with Bilel, Amy wears a hijab and calls herself Melody. She does her best to sustain the ruse while being hectored by her editor (Christine Adams) to supply recorded footage of her conversations. The editor wants to broadcast Amy's story.
     Amy balks, fretting about exposure and about Bilel's welfare. Amy's susceptibility to Bilel's charms and her concern for his safety in war-torn Syria reach levels that challenge plausibility.
    Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer) generates additional tension when Amy flies to Turkey where she's supposed to meet with Bilel who'll escort her to the Syrian bliss that awaits.
     It's an interesting enough idea, but Bekmambetov overtaxes the movie's digital artifice and missteps when it comes to sustaining plausibility for all of Profile's105-minute run time.

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