Above Suspicion is a case of what could have been. The film was completed in 2017 while Game of Thrones was still on the air and could have taken advantage of star Emilia Clarke’s popularity. Its scheduled release last year was put on hold due to the pandemic. In four short years, the film seems to have missed its window to make maximum impact.
Clarke is excellent in the lead role of Susan Smith. The Pikeville, Kentucky native has been recruited by FBI agent Mark Putnam (Jack Hutson) as an informant. As their relationship moves beyond professional boundaries, things turn deadly. The former GOT stars tackles the role with a downtrodden enthusiasm fans of the HBO will not be familiar with. Susan has lived a rough life filled with abuse and drugs. She is a defeated person before the age of 30. While Above Suspicion can be heavy handed at times, Clarke works hard at keeping audiences interested.
It is an uphill battle for much of the film. Susan’s beyond the grave narration plus a salacious headline let audiences know where the affair is headed. Since Above Suspicion is based on a true story, this is not a big problem. The hook is not so much what happened but why and how. In this era when true crime rules television and podcast space, this type of movie should thrive.
Yet, the needed tension never develops. There is the morbid curiosity regarding what occurred, but there is little else to connect to. Strangely, the film works to set the proper tone. It is appropriately grey and has a noir tinge to it. There is a constant air of dread and distrust. The main issue is Above Suspicion relies on the idea of the mystery instead of actually developing it.
Still, things remain enjoyable due to the cast. Along with the barely recognizable Clarke, Huston carries his weight as the FBI agent who is in over his head. Johnny Knoxville may seem out of place in a serious thriller, but he also holds his own. The premise will also keep audiences invested. The story may be flawed, but it is worth watching.
Above Suspicion releases in theaters and on VOD and digital May 7
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