“You catch bad guys for a living, you must be a good guy, right?” – Susan Smith (Above Suspicion)
Everyone wants to believe that those who enforce the law are doing their best to protect the peace and the average citizen. But when the lines between good and evil begin to blur, the pain that can come from this loss of integrity can do even more damage.
Based on a true story, Above Suspicion tells the story of Mark Putnam (Jack Huston), an FBI agent who’s appointed to work in a small town to help bring down their local drug dealers. In hot pursuit of a local drug lord, Mark meets Susan Smith (Emilia Clarke), a beautiful local woman who knows everyone and everything that goes on in her town. After she agrees to help the FBI in their investigation, she and Mark begin a passionate affair that ends up threatening his family and compromising his work with the Bureau.
Directed by Phillip Noyce, Above Suspicion is an average sexual thriller that never really excites, despite some fairly good work from its cast at times. Leaning too much on thrillers of the past, Suspicion fails to draw the viewer into its world of intrigue with predictable plot twists and a relatively flat script.
While the film may be somewhat disappointing, it is worth noting however that Clarke’s work here is fairly engaging in moments. Bringing an edge to Susan’s relationship with Mark, one is never entirely sure if she’s in control of her circumstances or simply under the spell of a mischievous man. Unfortunately, the rest of her surrounding cast never really rises to the challenge and often leave her without much support.
Although Suspicion doesn’t always work, it does contain a somewhat intriguing conversation about the difference between heroes and villains in our culture. While Mark lives his life as the ‘golden boy’ of the FBI, he lives a life of deception as he carries on with his relationship with Susan. On the surface, he’s the ideal father and husband who remains committed to his work. After hours though, he has broken every rule of FBI professionalism with his sexual dalliances.
However, what’s most interesting about his actions is that he seems to have convinced himself that he’s not doing anything wrong. To him, this is about ‘compartmentalizing’ his life. Believing that he can separate his work from his personal life, Mark intentionally blinds himself to the rules that are there for both his and Susan’s protection. In this way, the film shows the dangers of what can happen when having power gives way to an attitude of privilege. Having forgotten the heart of his calling, Mark allows himself to believe that he is somehow not accountable. As a result of his selfishness, he compromises and ultimately abuses his power. In this way, Above Suspicion becomes an appropriate piece at a time when people of power from the police to the presidency have demonstrated the flaws of their moral character and the fallout that can happen as a result.
Unfortunately, despite the prospects that the film has to show its relevance, the film never realizes its potential. With the rise and fall of Mark Putnam, Noyce has ample opportunity to delve into the mind of a man who’s fall from grace caused so much pain to this small Kentucky town. Even so, Above Suspicion still manages to come in below expectations.
Above Suspicion is available on VOD on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021.