Rated: R for sexuality, graphic nudity, language and brief violence. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 16, 2017 Released by: A24 Films
A little ambiguity and a committed cast elevates this middling fictionalized historical drama with espionage, romance, and adventure. That might be underwhelmed by an unpolished production and wavering accents.
David Leveaux's The Exception is likely to have a brief theatrical life in art-houses and will likely be a draw for some war scholars and the presence of the estimable, Oscar-winning octogenarian Christopher Plummer (The Last Station, Beginners).
The British theatre director has some flair in demonstrating appeal to the storyline with the horrors of early World War II as the backdrop as Plummer's exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II's expansively swank rural residence in Holland is the primary setting.
Jai Courtney's wistful, though professional Nazi Capt. Stefan Brandt is retained to watch over the Kaiser and wife Empress Hermine Reuss of Gretz (Janet McTeer) with the possibility of a mole from the Dutch resistance lurking. Stefan though has to reconcile his duty for his growing affections for the Jewish housemaid there, Lily James's Mieke de Jung who happens to be harboring secrets. Their intimacy turns out to be of the equitable sort after the Capt. barks orders to the young woman, prompting unintentional laughter.
The love story of Brandt and Mieke, of course, is entwined in a web of peril and deceit, but as diverting as the material might appear, a predictable and finally maudlin aura pervades what should have been more poignant and enkindling. Though some erotic sparks fly between Courtney (of Suicide Squad and embracing a more dramatic turn) and James (Cinderella) who both ambivalently shade their roles. Eddie Marsan provides some off-color articulation to the S.S.'s Heinrich Himmler, the Fuhrer's right-hand man.
Leveaux lets Plummer deliver his dialogue with rich panache from a desirous man in love with a country and longing for the throne again while unafraid to speak out against what it's become since the end of the previous war. He truly is the charismatic exception to the jagged rules that govern what is less than Wilhelm's wry and febrile distinctive comportment.