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Review: Profile

— by RON WILKINSON —

The best thing about internet social networking is the mutable nature of its reality. The truth as far as it goes, the user is ultimately in command of their profile. If this film is a cautionary tale it is to remind that mutability goes both ways. It is one thing to lie about one’s age and another to pretend to have converted to a radical religion bent on holy war. Still such distinctions are a matter of scale. How much truth is really out there is anyone’s guess.

Taking techno editing to the next level writer/director Timur Bekmambetov shoots almost the entire movie as laptop computer screen shots. The dialog is chock full of tech glitches, dropped calls, pixilation, distortion, delay and location uncertainty. It is an internet fog of war since the stakes are lethally high and semi-communications is all that can be mustered. As it turns out, if two people of widely different race, religion, politics and agenda are having trouble communicating, maybe it is intentional. If truth seems like a battle maybe it is a war.

Amy (in a riveting performance by Valene Kane) is a starving young journalist living in London and fighting her war to keep up appearances while putting bread on the table and managing her engagement with Matt (Morgan Watkins). Her editor Vick (Christine Adams) is using her to get the next big story about ISIS enslavement of young women volunteering to fight for the cause. The target of the scam is ISIS fighter/leader Abu Bilel (Shazad Latif) who is fighting his own war in the Middle East.

The war of free, if coerced, journalism will intersect with the war of the caliphate. The cat and mouse game that ensues is produced with a remarkably profound voice, the voice of the internet, an imaginary land through the looking glass. Tedious at first, this presentation becomes disturbingly natural by midpoint, a miasma of misrepresentations overlooked for the cause. When Amy switches off her computer near the end the film the director might have just as well switched from color to black and white. The shift is that profound.

Co-written by Britt Poulton and Olga Kharina based on the novel “In the skin of a Jihadist” by Anna Erelle the screenplay explores peace as well as war. As Amy and Matt struggle with teetering finances and logistics in the hard scrabble war of London real estate, Amy is forced to prove her legitimacy with an online Skype wedding with Abu. Did you not know that existed? Neither did any of us. As Matt is texting the housewarming party to Amy, Abu has Facebook posted his legally binding marriage to her. A fine bit of dark humor ensues at Matt’s expense.

The stripped down semi-disabled network-speak puts the pressure on Kane’s acting and she comes through in spades thanks to a solid script and fine supporting performances by a great cast. A bold step in filming drops cinematography in favor of a never-ending choreography of bizarrely pixilated screens that change with the mood of the scene from kindly realism to Rorschach renditions of our worst nightmares. These happen in exponentially increasing number and rapidity as Amy researches like a data hurricane while maintaining a meek, submissive and loyal online countenance. Like Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire, she does it as well as Abu, only backwards and in high heels.

Rating: 8/10

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