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Above Suspicion: Real

The phrase “based on a true story” attracts audiences because it makes them feel that the film is closer to reality. But while anyone can type the sentence on a black screen that precedes their movie, it is only a few films whose stories seem real. Above Suspicion is based on a true story, and that’s something you can tell without seeing the typed phrase at its beginning.

Above Suspicion follows drug addict Susan (Emilia Clarke) living with drug dealer ex-husband (Johnny Knoxville) and their two children in a small town where dealing drugs is the norm. Susan’s life is changed when her young brother kills a man during a fight, and along comes young and ambitious new FBI agent Mark (Jack Huston), who convinces Susan to become an informant. One thing leads to another and before they know it Mark is cheating on his wife with Susan. When Mark makes the busts, and Susan testifies, he starts to avoid her and wants to end things, but Susan won’t go so easily.

The film is based on a true story and that completely radiated throughout it, as the filmmakers did not sugar coat any of the ugliness of the drug abuse, domestic violence, infidelity, and betrayal. That being said, the drug addict actors did not necessarily look the part; this element was definitely a lot more screen-friendly reality. What also made the film seem very realistic is the human reactions and interactions, such as Susan’s response to feeling abandoned by Mark, and Mark’s weakness towards Susan.

The concept is not entirely new, but the way it is handled is rather different as it spotlights a rather not-so-typical drug addict who is a mother that still tries to take care of her kids and do what she can for them.

The pace of the plot is steady but lags a little in the second act when Mark is trying to pull away and it seems like nothing is happening.

As for the acting, Emilia Clarke was able to deliver an amazing performance with a Kentucky accent that was mostly consistent, as well as genuine and extreme reactions and realistic body language. Clarke proved again that she can do more than the stereotypical roles for a woman, especially given her innocent looking face and charm. Jack Huston, on the other hand, lacked the charisma that could sell us on how Susan fell in love with his character with a very underplayed performance that was not able to hold its ground in front of Clarke’s powerful performance. It may be the case that Huston was cast mainly because he bears quite a resemblance to the real FBI agent on whose story the film is based. Johnny Knoxville was surprisingly good in his role as Susan’s husband, Cash.

Above Suspicion is probably not a movie you will remember for too long after you have watched it, but you probably will remember Emilia Clarke’s performance in it.

Like This? Try

Monster (2003), Blow (2001), Voice from the Stone (2017).

360 Tip

The true story took place in Pikeville, Kentucky. Also known for the feud of the Hatfield's & McCoys. However, most of the film takes place in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Harlan County Kentucky. Harlan is also the famous town of the FX hit series, Justified.

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