Films set in WWII are technically the best type of films anyone can make. Oh wait this movie has Jai Courtney in it? Oh Jeez. But hear me out, this is a good one.
Set during World War II, German soldier Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is sent on a mission to investigate exiled German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer). The Kaiser lives in a secluded mansion in The Netherlands, and as Germany is taking over Holland, the country’s authorities are concerned that Dutch spies may be watching the Kaiser. As Brandt begins to infiltrate the Kaiser’s life in search of clues, he finds himself drawn into an unexpected and passionate romance with Mieke (Lily James), one of the Kaiser’s maids whom Brandt soon discovers is secretly Jewish. When Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan), head of the SS, decides to come for an unexpected visit with a large platoon of Nazis in tow, Brandt is forced to make the ultimate choice between honoring his country and following his heart.
THE GOOD: For a directorial debut for someone whose career involved nothing but directing Broadway production, David Leveaux does a stupendous job crafting every bit and piece of this film together. His tracking track shots are beautiful and the cinematography is mesmerizing. Through the entire film, you feel as if you’re in France during WWII. It feels two steps away from being a Joe Wright film, especially when it has the same cinematographer as Wright’s Pride & Prejudice.
One of the best things I like about this movie in its beginning is how fearless to display nudity. Not sex, but the nudity. People say, you show a male’s genitals, you get an NC-17 rating. Well in this you see full frontal nudity for both James and Courtney and this film has an R rating. I don’t wanna go into how much I appreciate the fact that nudity shouldn’t only be women, but men as well but SEE FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, you can have your cake and eat it too! For the record, if Jai Courtney and Lily James starred in their own little Fifty Shades of Grey, I honestly wouldn’t mind it.
The most outstanding cast member is Christopher Plummer who is lively and humorous throughout as Kaiser Wilhelm II. Without Plummer, there is no movie. The entire plot centers around him. Though he’s the motivation of both the lead’s, Plummer carries the movie with his two hands. When he’s onscreen he gloriously chews up every piece of scenery he can get his hands on. All of the comedy comes from Plummer. He’s old yet he’s quirky. The only thing bad about Kaiser is how inconsistent his mentality. You see him growing Alzheimer’s but it switches back and forth where you think he’s weird at first but then at times he’s proven to be wise.
Jai Courtney leading a film may not be the smartest one. Right when the film opens, Courtney delivers dialogue in the only way he knows best, emotionless and expressionless. Even in his opening close-ups he looks lost. But as the film goes on….he gets better. I know it’s crazy. Ever since Suicide Squad, Courtney has been an outstanding surprise. I mean, he barely was in that piece of shit film, but his performance as Captain Boomerang kind of stuck with me for a while. In this, he does a fine job maintaining his accent and exhibiting emotions.
THE BAD: The dynamic of the three leads remind me rather much of a 2016 film Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply. It had two leads working for an old man who may be losing his mind and through events of circumstances fall for each other. Where Rules Don’t Apply had the character but no conflict, The Exception has the conflict but lack the characters. One of the characters describes Stefan Brandt as cocky. Sorry but for the full hour and a half of this movie, I never saw it. I only saw him as smug.
James and Courtney’s romance are as thin as Brad Pitt’s and Marion Cotillard’s in Allied. There’s no real romance between them. Their definition of romance is first encounter, sex, sex, brief conversation, sex, and then they’re in love. I don’t know how romance must’ve worked in the WWII era but I know it hasn’t as quick as that but for this movie, there’s a romance between a German and a Jew. A brewing romance between a German and a Jew doing WWII?
As intriguing as that sounds the movie just plays that story way too safely for a plot point that’s not part of the central plot of the movie. The film is more centered on the protection of Kaiser and then their romance. The film is clichéd in its story, but never for a moment was I bored or uninterested.
The reason I favor this over other romance period pieces such as Allied and Rules Don’t Apply is because of the tone and the story are both equally balanced. No, it doesn’t have the stylistic flair as Zemeckis’ Allied or the colorful visuals of Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, but this has a story and for the most part, that story works. Its plot builds up that thoroughly thickens as it goes on.
LAST STATEMENT: Though the romantic plot isn’t fully realized, The Exception is an entertainingly well crafted period drama with a fine performance by an exceptional performance by Christopher Plummer.
Rating: 3.5/5 | 71%
Super Scene: Keisha tells it like it is.