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An Acceptable Loss

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
An Acceptable Loss Movie Poster Image
Ambitious but mature, highly flawed political thriller.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Title sparks an interesting discussion: What is an acceptable loss? Here, characters bombed a city, killed 150,000 in hope of destroying six terrorist leaders. If successful, they could perhaps have prevented many deaths in future. But is that a reasonable argument?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even "good" characters here indulge in behavior that ranges from shady to horrific. They do eventually risk a great deal to right their wrongs, but they're more clichéd than admirable.

Violence

Description of massive violence -- i.e., bombing a country of 150,000 people. Descriptions of weapons of mass destruction. Gun drawn and pointed. Characters are hit with a gun butt, by a car. Explosion kills several characters. Shouting during peace march.

Sex

Characters kiss, have sex in a bed; naked back seen. Opposite-sex and same-sex pairs kiss. A man ogles women, women's behinds, etc. Skimpy lingerie.

Language

Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Also "motherf----r," "bulls--t," "damn," "bastards," "d--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking at dinner, parties. Minor character yells drunkenly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that An Acceptable Loss is a political thriller about the aftermath of a huge U.S. air strike that's designed to take out high-level terrorists but results in massive civilian casualties. In addition to descriptions of these deaths, the movie has guns, a deadly explosion, and characters being hit both by blunt objects and a car. A couple has sex in bed; the woman's naked back is seen, and later she wears skimpy lingerie. Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples kiss, and a main male character ogles women. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus other words. Characters drink at dinners and parties, and a minor character yells drunkenly. Despite some honorable intentions, the movie is weirdly awkward and slips too easily into a brainless, routine chase movie. Tika Sumpter and Jamie Lee Curtis co-star.

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What's the story?

In AN ACCEPTABLE LOSS, former national security advisor Libby Lamm (Tika Sumpter) is now teaching at a university, constantly on her guard while writing a memoir. She doesn't have a phone or a computer and writes longhand in notebooks while safe behind a myriad of locks and alarms. As she writes, viewers learn more and more about her involvement with Vice President Rachel Burke (Jamie Lee Curtis) and an attack on Syria that was meant to wipe out six international terrorist leaders. A student, Martin (Ben Tavassoli), becomes obsessed with Libby and starts following/spying on her. At the same time, her former employers track her down and demand to know where her loyalties lie. If Libby tells the truth, there could be big trouble.

Is it any good?

This political thriller is ambitious and timely, but it's also disappointingly awkward, with stilted performances in the first half, and a second half that gets increasingly routine and ridiculous. Written and directed by Joe Chappelle -- whose earlier film work consists of low-grade genre stuff like Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Phantoms, and The Skulls II -- An Acceptable Loss starts with an intriguing scenario. Libby was directly involved in a decision to take out 150,000 bystanders in order to target six important terrorists, and now she must live with the fallout. The movie is honest in dealing with the situation both in the way that Libby is hit with questions and accusations (and sometimes even support) wherever she goes and in the way she has retreated into a world of spareness and suspicion.

But as soon as the movie starts, the most basic scenes play stiffly, with actors who appear to be at different levels or in different spaces. Aside from her hidden depths, Libby is weirdly static, rarely making an organic move from within; everything acts upon her. And, despite her brains and paranoia, it's frustrating how easy it is for Martin to breach her security system. From there, the movie turns into an absolutely silly, brainless chase in which nothing anyone does makes much sense. An Acceptable Loss could have been an incendiary, ferocious movie, instead of the limp one it is; at least Curtis is totally committed to her malevolent, razor-edged political powerhouse character.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about An Acceptable Lossviolence. What's shown/not shown? How does that affect its impact?

  • How does the movie depict sex? What values are imparted?

  • What is an "acceptable loss"? Do you agree or disagree with this term as it relates to the movie? In general?

  • For a time, the main character is "off the grid," with no phone, email, computer, etc. What do you think that would be like?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills and politics

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