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Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Exception

Hey, World War II buffs, did you know that Kaiser Wilhelm, grandson of Queen Victoria and ruler of Germany during World War I, was still alive during World War II, and lived in exile in Holland? That's the premise of the decent if dishwater dull espionage thriller, The Exception.

Wilhelm, played forcefully by Christopher Plummer, chops wood and gets dressed up in his uniform, waiting to be called back to the throne. His wife (Janet McTeer), dotes on him, as does his aide-de-camp (Ben Daniels).

Into this mix comes an officer (Jai Courtney), who is recovering from a wound and also a major indiscretion. He wants to fight, but is put in command of the military attachment assigned to protect Wilhelm. He doesn't care much about anything, but knows if Wilhelm dies, he will be shot.

Also in the household is a maid (Lily James) who turns out to be a British agent. She is supposed to assassinate Wilhelm, but dithers for some reason. When Himmler (a chilling Eddie Marsdan) comes to visit, she decides she will kill him.

All of this makes for atmospheric cloak and dagger stuff, directed by David Leveaux, a celebrated theater director making his film debut. I saw his Medea about twenty years ago, and it was terrific. As film director, he could use a lighter touch. I know any movie about Nazis is serious, but The Exception could use some breathing room in its scenes.

Plummer, of course, is a scene stealer, but the rest of the cast is solid. Courtney is much better than when he was in Terminator Genisys, although he seems to have borrowed the accent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, his co-star in that film. James shows off her naked form, as in their first meeting Courtney asks her to remove her clothes. They end up in love, though. Relationships have gotten off to rockier starts, I suppose.

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