Riveting fact-based thriller has war violence, smoking.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Profile is a fact-based thriller about a journalist named Amy (Valene Kane) who goes undercover as a potential bride for a radicalized terrorist. The whole film takes place on what appears to be Amy's computer; she uses Facebook, Skype, YouTube, and Google for her online communication and research, including learning more about Muslim culture. One of the film's main messages is that everyone is just a few clicks away from danger online. Clips of violent, ISIS propaganda-like videos are shown throughout the movie, with glimpses of hostages about to be beheaded, as well as heavy artillery, warfare, and children talking to the camera who appear to be hit in an explosion. The images create anxiety, but nothing bloody or gory happens on camera. Giant guns are toted, fired, and swung around like a fashion accessory. Amy's target/contact is attractive and charismatic, and their relationship seems to build authentically: It's meant to show how easily it could be to be sucked into radicalized communities, so make sure to talk with teens about which behaviors were actually recruitment techniques. Expect to see images of women in lingerie and hear/read discussions about "purity." Strong language includes "bulls--t" and "f--k," and Amy both smokes and drinks.
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What's the Story?
It's 2014, and scrappy British journalist Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane) accepts an assignment investigating how the so-called Islamic State is recruiting European teen girls. Going undercover online as a recent Muslim convert named Melody, Amy's fictional PROFILE immediately attracts Bilel (Shazad Latif), and they start communicating through Skype. Bilel is disarmingly charismatic, and the more time Amy spends with him to get to the truth, the more their fake relationship begins to feel very real.
Is It Any Good?
Chillingly terrifying, Amy's gradual induction into the terrorist organization she's trying to infiltrate is absolutely unforgettable. For anyone -- especialy teens -- who think they're in control online, it's a warning that even when all of your wits are about you and your critical mind is on overdrive, emotions can be overpowering. Bilel brags about kills and his role in expanding his group's territory, justifying his actions through his faith and his belief that he's righting wrongs. At the same time, he shows a softer and more playful side to Amy (as Melody) and shares stories of racist slights and family loss that help her (and viewers) see his humanity.
Director Timur Bekmambetov employs the screenlife format previously used in the horror film Unfriended and thriller Searching, telling the movie's whole story through one character's computer screen. Spending nearly two hours staring at a laptop screen may feel a bit exhuasting if you're Zoomed out. But the format lends itself to terror: Bekmambetov plays with viewers' anxieties around how easy it can be to slip up when we communicate through cameras on computers. Viewers may well wring their hands when "Melody" Skypes with Bilel while simultaneously carrying on real-life activities, like texting with her actual boyfriend, sending photos back and forth with friends, and taking calls from colleagues. Will she make a mistake? Will he see her screen? Knowing that this dangerous digital cat-and-mouse game actually happened magnifies audiences' reactions. And as more clues start making you wonder just who's clicking through Amy's files, terror may strike your heart: Is she safe? The real journalist Amy is based on put herself into harm's way to try to help teen girls, and the lessons learned from her investigation will hopefully be useful in avoiding radical online predators of any stripe.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Profile and how it compares to that of other films you've seen. How are viewers led to believe they're seeing more violence on camera than they actually are?
What does the movie have to say about digital communities and staying safe online?
Is Profile more powerful because you know it's based on a true story? Or would it be just as effective as a fully fictional thriller? Do you think the "screenlife" format that it uses works to build suspense? Screenlife has primarily been used in thriller and horror films. Can you imagine it working for a comedy? An action film?
Do you think Amy is brave? Why are courage and curiosity important traits for an investigative journalist? Do you think those are important characteristics for all of us?
Discuss the techniques that Bilel uses to create a relationship with Melody (e.g., calling at the same time every day, sharing stories about vulnerable moments, etc.). What makes them effective?
- In theaters: May 14, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: August 10, 2021
- Cast: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams
- Director: Timur Bekmambetov
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Thriller
- Character Strengths: Courage, Curiosity
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some disturbing images
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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