TIFF 2016: The Exception Review



Given David Leveaux’s directorial debut The Exception is working with a rather mediocre screenplay, and a televisual production value – not to mention the collection of inconsistent accents – you can’t be blamed for expecting a truly underwhelming cinematic endeavour, yet the sheer flair and application of the leading cast is enough to ensure this narrative is brought to life, and just about remains engaging throughout.

Set amidst the horrors of the Second World War, Jai Courtney plays Nazi Captain Stefan Brandt, assigned to the residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) and his wife Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz (Janet McTeer) to determine whether or not the Dutch resistance have planted a spy in his grandiose abode. The pensive soldier considers himself a model professional, so finds himself conflicted when he falls in love with the Jewish housemaid Mieke de Jong (Lily James).

“Take your clothes off” is one of the very first orders that Brandt barks at his new love interest, and she dutifully obliges, only for the tables to turn when she later requests the same of him. Scenes that provoke much laughter from the audience, in a situation where comedy is most certainly not intentional. These cringeworthy sequences are emblematic of a love story that is somewhat contrived in its approach, growing mawkish as we progress, and is rarely sexy, despite clearly intending to be. It’s interesting to see Courtney appear in a dramatic role however, not merely on hand simply to punch people in the face, or throw a boomerang at anyone. He impresses too, with a distinctly understated approach, while his name, Captain Stefan, has a rather nice ring to it, don’t you think?

The film is littered with accomplished turns by the supporting actors, with the ever impressive Eddie Marsan appearing as Hitler’s right hand man Heinrich Himmler, and it makes the world of difference when entrusting the smaller roles in the feature with such talented actors you can always depend on. But Christopher Plummer is the star of the show, blessed with a character equipped with a variety of witty one-liners, and a certain eccentricity to his demeanour which is endearing. Only problem is, he seems to have taken all of the best dialogue, so much so that he’s left very little for anybody else.