Profile review: From Timur Bekmambetov – the director behind the likes of Nightwatch, Daywatch and the Hollywood action movie Wanted – as well as the recent Ben Hur remake – comes a new movie set completely on the screen of an Apple Macbook. If you’ve seen the recent release Searching then you’ll know the set-up. The story is played out using web apps, programs and phone conversations – a new sub genre that is emerging as one of the most inventive filmmaking in recent times.

Image.net/BFI London Film Festival

It’s 2014 and we’re introduced to Amy as she attempts to create a Facebook profile. She becomes Melody – a nineteen-year-old from London who immediately signs in to her account, liking ISIS-related posts and sending friend requests to like-minded people. Of course, Melody isn’t a real person. She is Amy, a journalist from the capital looking into how young women are recruited, radicalised and transported to Syria by Islamic State. We view interactions between Amy and her loving, well-intentioned real boyfriend, her demanding editor, her best friend and Bilel, a twenty-something British national who is now in Syria and part of ISIS, attempting to get to know Amy (as Melody) during the majority of this extremely well-constructed, clever film.

The film is intricately designed – very well-paced, and so very edgy. It is truly intense, not because of what is happening on-screen, but more what could or is about to happen. Despite its set-up, it is a film which needs to be see n on a big screen, in a dark room with others. At various points, I wanted to exit the auditorium, and I know I wasn’t alone. What the film does is pull you in, so no matter how much you want to leave, you won’t, as you want to see how it all ends.

There are cliches – the character of Amy’s boss is pure caricature – and the fickle boyfriend thing was difficult to grasp. There are times when big chunks seem to have been left out to give the film a shorter running time – possibly to its advantage in terms of pacing – and you never believe just how quickly manages to get Bilel on side.

But forget all that, Profile is a genius piece of original, inventive film making that will have you gripped from start to finish. What’s more – and I did not know this until the end credits – it’s all based on a true story.

Profile review by Paul Heath, October 2018.

Profile was reviewed at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival.

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