A Nazi in Love in “The Exception”
By Skip Sheffield
There is an exception to every rule. Capt. Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is “The Exception.” Capt. Brandt is a war-wounded Nazi officer assigned to be a bodyguard to the deposed German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, in splendid exile in Holland, 1940.
Christopher Plummer plays the wily, sardonic Kaiser, grandson to Queen Victoria. At age 87 he is the best thing about this film, directed by British theater director David Leveaux and based on the 2003 novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss,” by Alan Judd.
There is a romantic subplot involving Brandt and a pretty young maid named Mieke (Lili James). The last time we saw Lili she was a very blond “Disney’s Cinderella.” Here she is very brunette and possibly dangerous. Brandt has been told there is a Dutch Resistance spy somewhere in the vicinity of the Kaiser. Mieke is Dutch, and she reveals she is Jewish. What’s a loyal Nazi to do? In Brandt’s case it is fall in love with Mieke despite the cost. This is what makes Brandt an exception. He feels deep guilt about a Nazi massacre of women and children he witnessed. He is beginning to feel Hitler is a madman. His loyalty to the German cause is eroding. When, in the film’s most startling scene he has intercourse with Mieke with no foreplay, he is hooked.
When Nazi henchman Himmler (Eddie Marsan) visits and talks about a “final solution” for the weak, elderly, deformed and children, Brandt snaps inside.
Through it all the Kaiser is a bemused presence. Plummer portrays him more sympathetically probably than the real man was. He is an old man, nostalgic about the good old days of the monarchy and proud of his large closet filled with fancy uniforms. “The Exception” is a flight of fancy based on facts. If for Plummer’s performance alone it is worth a look.