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Sunday, September 10, 2017


An entertaining mix of history, tosh and tail. (Review by Patrick Compton - 7)

Christopher Plummer excels as Kaiser Wilhelm II in this diverting, albeit highly unlikely World War II romantic melodrama.

In the annals of history, Germany’s last monarch, exiled to Doorn in Holland at the end of the Great War, deserves little sympathy. An unpleasant anti-Semite, though not in the same league as the genocidal Nazis, the erratic Wilhelm was simply not up to the job of ruling his country and was responsible in large measure for Germany’s culpability in bringing about the war. He was also something of a fantasist, believing the monarchy could be restored under Hitler, a possibility that the Fuhrer and his minions dismissed with contempt.

That is the historical background to this movie which has been adapted by scriptwriter Simon Burke and director David Leveaux from the novel by Alan Judd. A German officer, Captain Brandt (hunky Jai Courtney), is detailed to head up the Kaiser’s security at his country estate in Doorn shortly after Germany invades Holland in 1940. His job is to protect Wilhelm in the light of reports that an English spy is sending information out of Doorn which may lead to the former monarch’s assassination or capture.

Grafted onto this thriller framework is a sexy subplot that features an illicit relationship between Brandt and a pretty maid in the Kaiser’s household. The exceedingly well-formed Lily James, who plays Mieke the maid, is well-known to South African audiences for her role as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey. Here, without giving too much away, she plays a servant whose interests are not restricted to polishing the silverware.

Her sumptuously filmed affair with Brandt certainly complicates matters when you realise that it is the largely sympathetic German officer who is the incarnation of the film’s title.

Despite playing an unsympathetic character, Plummer invests his role with such a degree of charm that, whatever our objective thoughts about the Kaiser, we warm to him. He certainly comes out shining during an important dinner party when his guest is the morbid head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, played with almost lurid understatement by Eddie Marsan. Ten minutes of his company makes us want to take a shower.

This handsomely-mounted movie deftly combines what we know of the historical record of the Kaiser’s exile with a large dollop of melodramatic invention that sometimes forgets to make the audience suspend its disbelief. Add to this the bedroom shenanigans and the movie comes over as an entertaining mix of history, tosh and tail.

The Exception opened in Durban on September 8. - Patrick Compton