Living in an post-9/11 America, we constantly have to ask ourselves what cost we're willing to pay for so-called safety. When countries are at war, or one has been attacked, it's easy to feel like revenge is the best answer, or demand that our leaders should do everything possible to make sure it doesn't happen again. But how many lives are we willing to sacrifice to protect our own? That's the question at the center of An Acceptable Loss, a new political thriller starring Tika Sumpter and Jamie Lee Curtis, opening in theaters and on demand Jan. 18.
In An Acceptable Loss, Sumpter plays Elizabeth "Libby" Lamm, a former national security expert whose intelligence leads to a drastic wartime decision resulting in one of the biggest mass casualties in history. Curtis co-stars as Rachel Burke, the President of the United States, who was the Vice President at the time of the war. Now four years later, Libby has taken a job as a college professor, but her insider knowledge of the reasons behind the attack make her a target of Burke's Administration, and the book Libby intends to write could expose the entire operation as a lie.
In the exclusive clip below, it's clear that Libby isn't exactly welcomed by everyone at her new position. While some professors admire her for her experience, and value her as an impressive addition to their faculty, not everyone is so happy. At one faculty event, a clearly-drunk fellow professor (David Eigenberg) calls her out on her actions, condemns her role in countless deaths, and puts her on blast for having the nerve to spout rehearsed talking points. Meanwhile, one of her students, played by Ben Tavassoli, looks on, his role in her story a mystery that unfolds throughout the film.
The clip emphasizes how world-changing decisions can be excused by rationalizing that something needed to be done in order to keep people safe, whether or not there was any danger to begin with. The clip also takes another turn, since Libby is a woman of color who previously worked for the now female president, their choices, decisions, and expertise are called into question, mirroring how in today's political climate, so often women are viewed as unqualified by men in power who think they know better. The professor in this clip may be right, but his enthusiasm in telling a group of women just how wrong they are is very telling.
Of writing the story and making the film, writer-director Joe Chappelle said, in the film's press notes, that the world is now closer to the movie's reality than ever. "When I first began to outline the script ... I had no idea how attitudes would change so quickly and so dramatically in this country. What was once 'unthinkable' has become a distinct possibility, especially when the President of the United States threatens to 'totally destroy' another country. Our democracy is under siege – from forces both abroad and at home." Chappelle hopes that the film will "provoke discussion about what is morally justified in the name of security. Even the loss of just one innocent life in the fight to keep our country 'safe' may indeed be one too many."
As we move farther and farther away from 9/11, An Acceptable Loss takes a hard look at what kind of destruction our country may have caused in the pursuit of safety, and revenge.