The shallow thriller “Profile” tells the story of Amy (Valene Kane), an ambitious British journalist on a mission to expose an Islamic State recruitment ring that targets European women. She creates a false identity with a Facebook profile to match, and draws the attention of Bilel (Shazad Latif), a London-born recruiter. Undercover, Amy begins to flirt with Bilel, suggesting her readiness to travel to Syria. Her investigation is dangerous, but the risk plays out entirely online. It’s provocative material, but unfortunately “Profile” is more interested in gimmicks than analysis.
“Profile” was directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who was previously a producer on the cyber-thrillers “Unfriended” and “Searching.” Much like those earlier films, “Profile” is set on a single computer screen. The screen furiously flashes between desktop windows, swapping between Amy’s Skype calls with Bilel and text messages from her increasingly concerned editor and friends. The digital frenzy is engaging, even if it lacks the novelty of earlier experiments in cinematic screen sharing.
More troublesome is the movie’s sensationalized story, which is adapted from the book “In The Skin of a Jihadist.” Despite this nonfiction reference material, the movie presents a simplistic and hackneyed view of what drives extremism. Bilel is shown to be an attractive manipulator who is defined more by machismo than by any ideological passions. The interactions between Bilel and Amy take the form of a mutual seduction. But the movie doesn’t examine the politics or the psychology of Amy’s undercover investigation, and as a result, her story feels insufficient, neither worth her risk nor the audience’s time.
Rated R for language, violence and references to sexuality. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.