AN ACCEPTABLE LOSS
Directed by: Joe Chappelle
Starring: Tika Sumpter Jaime Lee Curtis, Ben Tavassoli, Jeff Hephner
Four years ago, Libby worked for Rachel Burke, the Vice President of the United States. However her involvement in an unspeakable and inhumane executive action made her a pariah and scapegoat for the administration. Now working for a University, Libby finds her past coming to haunt her again as her old boss, now President, starts running for a second term. Libby is secretly writing her memoirs, which could put her life in danger…
An Acceptable Loss is definitely a film with its finger on the pulse, although you may find yourself mentally pushing back against its cynicism.
In the opening scenes we learn a lot about Libby - she is afraid for her life. She sleeps with a gun under her pillow. She is someone who has remained in the public eye for all the wrong reasons, although at first we have no idea why. She is writing her memoirs about her time at the Whitehouse and it is quite possible some people don't want her to go public.
Then we meet Martin, a post-grad student who has started at the same College where Libby now teaches. The film takes its time with revealiing who he is. Is he a deep cover agent, sent to obtain her notes? Is he a terrorist, planning some sort of revenge against her? Or something else entrely? Whoever he is, he's got Libby under surveillance, despite her best efforts to keep people out of her home (changing the locks, adding extras) and away from her memoirs (for which she buys an Olde Worlde bank safe to keep them in). Martin's agenda isn't helped by the fact he breaks into her apartment the same time Adrian, another of the President's advisors, comes to visit her at work.
The films takes its time building to the moment when Libby and Martin meet, but it proves to be the film's turning point, when the pace switches gears and Libby is forced to react. By this point, every doorbell ring, every knock on the door might lead to a fatal encounter.
This is definitely a film of our time. In any other administration, this would seem far-fetched, but we've seen and heard how the current US president can be easily swayed with some right-wing rhetoric and flattery. The previous president shown in the flash-back isn't as mean spritied and vain as the current one but he is played as a well-meaning fool being swept along by the Vice President's words.
The cast is great. Tika Sumpter gives a multi-faceted performance. She is a strong woman at heart but struggles to find solace in the actions she was complicit with. She tries to use political jargon to paper over what happened but crumbles when people call her on her bullshit. Jamie Lee Curtis is, of course, brilliant as Rachel Burke. It's never explicitly mentioned but I suspect she set up the executive action in order to topple the president and pave way for her own ascension - very Game of Thrones, in that respect!
While it takes its time setting up its characters, AN ACCEPTABLE LOSS is definitely worth watching. It's a cynical mix of conspiracy theory and political intrigue, and it will leave you hanging until the very last moment for any glimmer of hope.