Filmed entirely on its hero’s computer screen, “Profile” proceeds as though we’re watching the entire 2014 drama unfold over a series of recorded Skype conversations between Amy (Valene Kane), a London TV reporter, and her Aleppo-based contact, a handsome and charming British-born Muslim turned soldier of God named Bilel (Shazad Latif). Seemingly within minutes of Amy creating a fake Facebook profile, throwing on a makeshift hijab and sharing one of Bilel’s videos, her subject has fallen in love with her, proposed marriage and is trying to talk her into moving to Syria to have his babies.
Or, it is implied, maybe he just wants to restock the supply of European sex slaves for his comrades-in-arms.
“Profile” is only the latest film to use the “Screenlife” technique, a visual storytelling format pioneered by the film’s director, Timur Bekmambetov, that situates all of the action on a single digital screen, complete with multitasking between Facebook, Google and Skype, and constant interruptions by phone and text from other characters: Amy’s editor (Christine Adams), for instance, her boyfriend (Morgan Watkins) and a guy from IT (Amir Rahimzadeh).
You may remember this shtick from the Bekmambetov-produced “Unfriended,” a 2015 horror film that transpired mostly over a multicharacter video chat session, and “Searching,” a 2018 missing-person mystery cobbled together from the digital sleuthing of a distraught father (John Cho) — via his disappeared daughter’s laptop — and supplemental footage from surveillance cameras and other digital devices.
The whole experience feels a bit like standing over the shoulder of a hyperactive Gen Zer with an open laptop and an itchy index finger. Several things are always happening at once, mostly via tiny windows popping open and closed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a little bit boring.
Although the action of “Profile” takes place over several weeks, it is, needless to say, compressed almost beyond the point of credulity by the necessities of film storytelling — which are justified on-screen by the deadline pressure coming from Amy’s impatient boss. Still, it makes it a bit hard to swallow the tale, let alone to follow it at times, when everything happens so quickly.
There’s some genuine suspense, as Amy goes further and further along with the ruse in an effort to draw a more well-rounded portrait of Bilel for her report. And Latif has charisma to burn as her dangerously seductive Svengali. Still, there’s something about Screenlife that’s not just gimmicky — like the found-footage craze that preceded it — but numbing. All this technological terrorism should be terrifying, but it mostly just feels like eyestrain.
R. At area theaters. Contains crude language throughout and some disturbing images. 105 minutes.