Above Suspicion Review

Above Suspicion
There are two ways to make money in the small Kentucky town Susan Smith (Emilia Clarke) calls home: “the drug business and the funeral business”. Broke, struggling with addiction and facing criminal charges, Smith becomes an informant for the FBI, reporting to high-flying agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston). Their working relationship turns romantic, with deadly consequences.

by Al Horner |
Updated on
Release Date:

17 Jul 2020

Original Title:

Above Suspicion

In a southern mining town in 1989, pregnant mother-of-two Susan Smith was found murdered after serving as an informant in an FBI investigation. Above Suspicion, from Patriot Games director Phillip Noyce, tells the true-life tale of Smith’s (Emilia Clarke) death and the harrowing events leading up to it – how she was recruited by ambitious agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston), how their relationship turned romantic, and how she soon became entangled in an exploitative game of drug busts and deception. It’s an enveloping if stately paced thriller that doubles up as a portrait of a broken America: one where impoverished people fall into addiction, then into crime and finally into the witness stand, only to be failed by the people meant to protect and serve them.

Above Suspicion

Emilia Clarke is impressive as the film’s spiralling protagonist, revealed to be dead in the movie’s Lovely Bones-esque opening scene. Narrating from beyond the grave, in a convincing Kentucky drawl that’s less Daenerys and more Dolly Parton, the next 90 minutes recount Smith’s final months, in which the Game Of Thrones star is a hurricane of smudged mascara and Percocet bottles. Trapped in a trailer with her abusive ex-husband Cash (Johnny Knoxville) and desperately seeking a way out, she sees salvation in Mark Putnam, a hotshot federal agent who promises her money for rehab in return for information. He’s married. She’s entranced – captivated by his middle-class life, so different from hers on the bottom rung of society. “Like a picture in a magazine,” her voiceover swoons.

An enveloping thriller that doubles up as a portrait of a broken America.

As things sour, Above Suspicion walks a tricky line, attempting to both cook up sizzling sexual chemistry between Smith and Putnam while acknowledging the manipulative, dangerous dimension to their relationship. Some will have trouble with the film’s lack of condemnation for Huston’s Putnam, who’s granted a moral redemption here that isn’t consistent with real-life events. Others, expecting Fincher-level sophistication or The Girl On The Train-ish pulpy thrills, might also be disappointed by the film’s slow-burn unspooling of Smith’s story. This isn’t a twisty nail-biter. It’s a sobering story of a woman deemed disposable.

What Above Suspicion lacks in flashy direction, it makes up for in strong performances and gripping true-life material to draw from.

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