Review of the film Above Suspicion written by Joe Sharky and Chris Gerolmo and directed by Phillip Noyce Rating ***
One of the problems in condensing a book into a two-hour movie is that some things will get left out. In the case of this adaptation, almost an entire storyline got axed – the story of Mark Putnam’s attempt to hide his involvement in the murder of Susan Smith. The title “Above Suspicion” refers to the fact that Mark Putnam, played by actor Jack Huston, was an FBI agent and above being suspected of murder. That is the storyline I found to be the most compelling in the book. That’s not the story told here. Instead, screenwriters Joe Sharky and Chris Gerolmo decided to tell the story from Susan’s viewpoint.
The choice to focus on Susan wasn’t necessarily wrong. There is merit in telling a story about a woman who uses sex to climb out of a bad situation. Maybe the writers did it to appease their star, Emilia Clarke, who plays Susan. Perhaps they chose Susan’s story to appeal to a female audience, though the writers and the director were all male. I’d like to know if Joe Sharky, who also wrote the book, made the decision to tell Susan’s story or if his cowriter influenced him.
As far as following the events in the book related to Susan, the writers did an admirable job. Emilia Clarke does an excellent job of playing the down-and-out Susan, who sees an opportunity to change her status in life by latching on to an FBI agent just starting his career. There’s just one problem. Mark Putnam was married and had one kid and another on the way.
The story of the internal conflict Mark Putnam faced wanting to confess but knowing the damage a confession would cause him and his family is the more compelling storyline. The writers could have told that story and still had the salacious scenes they wanted.
One problem I had with the film was the sound. There is a lot of whispered dialogue. I’d turn up the volume to hear what was being said, only to be blown out by a bar scene or people yelling.
If you want to know more about Mark Putnam’s story, read the book. If you want to know more about Susan, watch the film. You can read my review of the book Above Suspicion here.