Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke leads director Phillip Noyce’s latest film, crime thriller Above Suspicion which is based on the true story of FBI informant Susan Smith, played by Clarke. By way of Susan’s narration we are introduced to the setting for the film, Pikeville Kentucky, presented here as a drab town plagued with failed businesses and outdated industries. Her narration also explains her personal situation, making the audience aware of her of two children and ex-husband; the latter played by Jackass front man Johnny Knoxville, as well as her involvement in the drug business. This narration continues throughout the film and allows audiences a further insight into Susan’s feelings and perspective on the events of the story.
Enter eager and keen to impress FBI agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston) who has his sights firmly set on catching a thief who has been robbing a string of local banks in the surrounding Pikeville area. Agent Putnam manages to recruit Susan in an attempt to gather further information on the case but this isn’t the only exchange the pair has, as their feelings for each other quickly begin to encroach on their initially purely professional relationship.
Unfortunately the road to this turning point in their relationship just isn’t developed enough, it’s obvious where the film is taking its viewers however this doesn’t mean that it’s convincing, and that’s exactly the problem. This rushed development means that the subsequent fallout doesn’t feel as effective and furthermore the exploration of Susan’s experience isn’t conveyed strongly enough despite the film’s best intentions. At times the story feels reminiscent of Adrian Lyne’s erotic thriller Fatal Attraction featuring Glenn Close’s iconic performance as Alex Forrest. Although, Clarke’s performance, as well as the film as a whole never reach the same levels of entertainment that the 80’s classic managed and will certainly not become as memorable.
In addition to this, Above Suspicion never looks visually appealing which creates an unwanted challenge for audiences to overcome. Of course the dreary appearance of the film matches the sad feel of Pikeville but there’s only so much poor lighting and odd editing choices that viewers should have to endure in order to create the appropriate atmosphere. The film’s dark visuals and miserable feel will do little to enchant those watching and this emulation of the story and the setting doesn’t succeed in enhancing the film so ultimately feels unjustified. It’s a sad story, in a sad setting, and as a result of the dull cinematography, the film doesn’t let you forget it.
Whilst the visuals of the film certainly aren’t compelling, at least the performances of the cast are all serviceable. No one performer really stands out, for better or for worse and as a whole the ensemble do well to combat the poorly presented narrative and depressing visuals in order to at least make the film watchable. The bigger-named cast have enough screen presence to keep the film engaging and even the lesser-known performers contribute adequately to the picture as well.
Ultimately, the film takes its fairly predictable narrative course, which will be even more the case if you’ve got previous knowledge of the true story it’s based on, at a steady pace over its 1 hour 45 minute running time. However it loses its way in its final act, failing to maintain this momentum that it’s slowly built over the course of the retelling of its story. It fails to focus on the most interesting elements of the narrative and also struggles to convey convincing nuances in its characters and their actions. However, maybe the film’s biggest issue is the depressing visuals, whilst admittedly providing a parallel to the tone and theme of the film, only act as a disservice to the finished product, as they make the film so uninviting and therefore a real struggle to engage with. So whilst this film may be above suspicion, it’s most definitely below average.
Lionsgate released the crime thriller ABOVE SUSPICION in Select Theatres and Everywhere You Rent Movies from May 7th, 2021 and on Blu-ray and DVD from May 18th, 2021