Such is the richness to modern television drama series, and distinct cinematic quality, that to describe a movie as being somewhat televisual, hardly seems like much of a criticism these days. But where David Leveaux’s directorial debut The Exception is concerned, it’s not used in the kindest of ways, for while maintaining a certain charm, this feature feels as unfortunately akin to the sort of show you’d stumble across on the smaller screen circa the early 90s.
Set during WW2, Nazi Captain Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is given the task of relocating to the abode of Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) and his wife, Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz (Janet McTeer) in a bid to uncover as to whether there is a spy living in this residence, working on behalf of the Dutch resistance. This committed, diligent Captain is here to complete an important, and requires his full attention – but then he falls in love. And for this Nazi, matters become even more complex given the housemaid that he yearns for, happens to be the Jewish Mieke de Jong (Lily James).
While certain moments in this film prove to be accidentally funny, or tremendously cringeworthy (pretty much the entire romantic narrative is contrived and mawkish), there is something ineffably entertaining about this feature. It’s got a certain kitsch quality, which mostly comes from the stand-out performance by Plummer, who is the real star of this piece. Granted with the majority (well, all) of the best lines, his eccentric demeanour gives the title a certain comedic, self-aware edge. It’s just a shame Plummer is used do sparingly – though perhaps that’s partly why it works, offering mere moments of light-relief when most needed. It’s interesting also to see Courtney play a role far removed from those of which we’ve seen him undertake before. Flexing his dramatic chops, he’s surprisingly understated in this role, and proves there’s more to him than mere muscle.
Eddie Marsan also impresses, which comes as far less of a surprise, though he, like all of the cast, are left with a lacklustre screenplay. They don’t help matters either as there’s a whole myriad of bad accents on show here, but thankfully the richness to the story, and the credentials of the leading cast just about ensure this movie is watchable, and quite likeable, too.