An Acceptable Loss review: One Chicago fans will embrace this thriller

Tika Sumpter (left) and Jamie Lee Curtis star in An Acceptable Loss, from Chicago Fire alum Joe Chappelle. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Corrado Mooncoin.
Tika Sumpter (left) and Jamie Lee Curtis star in An Acceptable Loss, from Chicago Fire alum Joe Chappelle. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Corrado Mooncoin. /

An Acceptable Loss hails from Chicago Fire director Joe Chappelle and features several Fire actors, but those aren’t the only reasons why it’s worth seeing.

One Chicago fans should be aware of An Acceptable Loss, the new movie written and directed by Joe Chappelle. Not only is Chappelle the best director in Chicago Fire history, he’s also staffed his new film with plenty of familiar faces.

Fan favorite Jeff Hephner co-stars in an impressive performance that will make audiences look at him just a little bit differently. David Eigenberg has a small but memorable role.

Alex Weisman, who plays paramedic Chout, carves out his own niche in a part that grows on the viewer the longer the film goes on. And Tim Hopper, who portrayed Investigator Van Meter most recently in the Chicago Fire season 7 episode “You Choose,” pops up too.

If you’re a One Chicago enthusiast, this movie has more than enough to offer you. But that’s not the only reason that An Acceptable Loss is the first sleeper hit of 2019.

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The film has a storyline that’s both timely and almost uncomfortable, given the current unpredictable state of our government. Top national security aide Libby Lamm (Tika Sumpter) convinces the President to approve a strike against multiple terrorist targets in Syria—but the bomb also kills countless innocent victims.

Four years later, Libby has resigned from public service and is working on a memoir about that fateful period. The backlash has changed her life; she lives with multiple locks on her front door and a gun under her pillow.

But she’s not unnecessarily paranoid: the woman who convinced Libby to advocate for the strike, Vice President Rachel Burke (a note-perfect Jamie Lee Curtis), is now President and the last thing she wants is Libby coming out against her.

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An Acceptable Loss is a political thriller, but it’s not a typical political thriller. The film doesn’t pack itself full of action sequences or waste time with monologues full of hyperbole. In fact, it actually takes its time laying out who the characters are and how they’re relevant to one another; you have to put the pieces together yourself. And when you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

There are multiple perspectives that bounce off one another throughout the movie. Rachel is still as staunch as she’s ever been, which lends a certain angst to her relationship with Libby, who she still sees as a friend. Libby, on the other hand, seems like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.

A graduate student named Martin (Ben Tavassoli) recognizes Libby when she accepts a temporary position lecturing at a university, and he’s got his own story that weaves into hers. The movie isn’t clear at first as to why he’s fixated on her; it takes a while to pull back the curtain, but when it does it’s heartbreaking.

And then there’s Hephner’s character Adrian, the intelligence operative turned Chief of Staff, who is exactly the kind of guy you expect in these kinds of movies. He’s the one who has the wheels in his head constantly turning. The casting of Hephner is a big plus, because his personality gives the character additional definition.

He provides a natural charisma and a softer side that keeps him from being just that guy doing the dirty work. But that’s also what enables the character to be even more dangerous, because he’s so endearing at the same time that he’s saying and doing things that the audience knows aren’t right. What makes the character feel human is the person playing him.

And his history is relevant, too, as An Acceptable Loss shows all these different perspectives, all of which are informed by each character’s own beliefs, experiences, and backstory. That’s where the film succeeds. It’s as much a character study as a thriller—and it has so many different points of view, from showing us women in power to people who are affected by decisions that happened millions of miles away.

An Acceptable Loss
Jeff Hephner plays political operative Adrian in An Acceptable Loss, directed and written by Chicago Fire’s Joe Chappelle. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colleen Griffen Chappelle. /

It all leads to a genuinely shocking ending. That’s saying something in a film landscape where it seems like every film has to have a last-act plot twist or set itself up for a sequel (or both). This movie’s conclusion is an honest surprise, and it perfectly hammers home the film’s point. It’s the kind of ending that will leave you thinking about it well after the credits roll.

That’s the biggest strength of An Acceptable Loss. Joe Chappelle has written a script that doesn’t fit in any predefined box, or genre, or point of view. It doesn’t spell out what’s happening or tell the audience whose side they should be on. It lets the viewer put the pieces together and come to the conclusion on their own, and when they get there, they’ll not only be moved by the ending but also moved to think more critically about what’s happening in real life.

Chicago Fire has shown fans how talented Joe Chappelle is as a director, but An Acceptable Loss will impress you with his storytelling. It avoids any sensationalism and it doesn’t overdramatize. This is a solid script delivered by a cast that turns in excellent work, quietly and without the fanfare that they frankly deserve. They just show up and do their jobs, and they do them very well—not unlike Libby Lamm, who now is prepared to have her reckoning.

Watch An Acceptable Loss on demand through Amazon or iTunes now. The film is also playing in select movie theaters; find out if the movie is in a theater near you here.

Next. Jeff Hephner tells more about An Acceptable Loss. dark

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