The Exception

 

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A tale of 1940 that involved Germans behaving more than a little improbably.

 
Exception, The

Lily James with Jai Courtney

 

The title of this film refers to one of its leading characters, Captain Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney): it is 1940 and we are asked to believe that this man is the exception to the rule being an appealing member of the SS who is a good guy and someone possessed of a conscience. He is sent to Utrecht to be the security guard responsible for the safety of Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) who is in residence there with his wife (Janet McTeer). She for one is hoping that an impending visit from Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan) will mean that the Kaiser will be summoned back to Berlin to retake his place. Meanwhile, word has got out that the British have a spy in the vicinity - not good news for our hero, Brandt, who knows that he will himself be shot if anybody assassinates the Kaiser under his watch.

 

As will be noted, this wartime drama has a very good cast - at 87 Christopher Plummer still commands the screen, Eddie Marsan finds a way to be quietly disturbing without overacting and Courtney brings a sensual quality to his role which is helpful since in no time at all Brandt is copulating with a Dutch employee in the household. This is Mieke de Jong (Lily James) who is carrying out duties as a maid. Their involvement is all the more unfortunate because we soon learn that Mieke is the spy acting for the British and accordingly she packs a gun in her luggage.

 

Initially we sense that a tolerably dramatic tale (one that boldly foregoes any accents and asks you outright to accept that British players using their own language are playing Germans) is being sexed up. But, once it is revealed that the couple are truly in love and Mieke is confiding to the SS captain that she is Jewish, we realise that it is central to the story that a spy on an important mission would risk everything by having a prohibited affair. Despite the endeavours of the cast, The Exception is a work that builds in a way that moves all too obviously from passing improbabilities to events that play out in the realm of preposterous melodrama. The director, David Leveaux, better known for work on the stage, is not incompetent, but nobody could save this farrago adapted by Simon Burke for Alan Judd's novel. That it challenges history is less important than the fact that it defies belief. The end credits, after referring to the fact that the film is not without connections to history, goes on to assert that 'most characters, dialogue and events have been fictionalised'. Frankly, we'd already guessed it.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Lily James, Jai Courtney, Janet McTeer, Christopher Plummer, Eddie Marsan, Anton Lesser, Loïs van Wijk, Karin Leclercq, Ben Daniels.

 

Dir David Leveaux, Pro Lou Pitt and Judy Tossell, Screenplay Simon Burke, from the novel The Kaiser's Last Kiss by Alan Judd, Ph Roman Osin, Pro Des Hubert Pouille, Ed Nicolas Gaster, Music Ilan Eshkeri, Costumes Daniela Ciancio.

 

Egoli Tossell Film/Alton Road Productions/Ostar Productions/Umedia-Signature Entertainment.
103 mins. UK/USA. 2016. Rel: 29 September 2017. Cert. 15.