The Exception

6.81 h 47 min2017R
A German soldier dispatched to surveil the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II finds himself drawn into an unexpected romance with the Kaiser’s Jewish maid.
David Leveaux
Lily JamesJai CourtneyJanet McTeer
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Christopher Plummer
Lou PittJudy Tossell
A24 Distribution LLC
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagenuditysexual contentsmokingviolence
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4.5 out of 5 stars

1505 global ratings

  1. 68% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 19% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Tadpole RaisinReviewed in the United States on August 6, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great story about strategy and risk in fighting The Great War
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This movie depicts a love story during the psychological drama involved with people fighting the war behind the front, playing a risky game of chess where they could be exposed at any time and face a violent end.
It is based on real events but it IS fiction, so it takes liberties that some people might find unacceptable. I hope it would result in the viewer unfamiliar with history to search out good historical books related to the subjects portrayed in the movie. These were amazingly brave people living in a time most of us could never comprehend.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, brilliantly played by Christopher Plummer, was not a soft man interested in feeding ducks. He was an egotistical man who played a major role in starting WWI. Yet here we see a man who looks longingly at the beloved country he fled and is disgusted by Hitler and his army. Will he play the old loyal soldier for the current regime? Are they using him?
And the truth is, Himmler really did visit Wilhelm while he was in exile!

Wilhelm's wife Princess Hermine, played by Janet Mcteer, relishes the possibility of returning to power and would like the King to regain his throne. But although she does not like the Nazis she is quite willing to go along with them if it achieves her goals - Incredibly risky and Shakespearean

You realize everyone is playing a dangerous game. Who is fighting for power, who is fighting for the greater good, and who is just trying to keep their heads down so they don't draw attention to themselves and therefore will live another day? The dangers of any society sliding down to autocracy can take years and then suddenly people realize they have lost control of their country and speaking up now means death.

So this is the background of a wonderful movie that tangentially touches on these issues as it tells an unlikely love story - a glimmer of hope during a horrible era in human history. Accept the weaknesses of this movie and enjoy the great acting and story telling.
134 people found this helpful
Jack E. LevicReviewed in the United States on September 14, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
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A wonderful cast and authentic setting makes this WW II drama worth watching. While historically far-fetched, it is an interesting premise. A Nazi Officer Captain Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is sent to Holland to oversee Kaiser Wilhelm (Christopher Plummer) as the Germans invade.

Here is a fact I really never thought about. I knew Wilhelm was exiled to Holland after the disastrous WWI, but what was his life life and how did his existence concern Hitler and the Nazis? I'm not sure if the film is all fantasy. Did Himmler really meet with the Kaiser after Germany invaded?

Well, that's all beside the point as THE EXCEPTION is really a love story about a German officer and a Dutch Jewish servant Mieke (Lily James). Of course, this alone is an interesting tale. Add in their growing respect for the lovable but eccentric Kaiser and here is the story.

I love WWII period films. The settings, the costumes, the cars and feel of authenticity are always interesting. Plummer is always at is finest as are Courtney and James. Expect some full nudity from Courtney and James but it was in context with the forbidden love story.

It's an enjoyable film which could have been much better. There is a fascinating story in the life of Kaiser Wilhelm after WWI that has never been explored here and unfortunately, history buffs won't get answers in THE EXCEPTION. Just enjoy the wonderful cast and setting.
46 people found this helpful
Reasonable ReviewerReviewed in the United States on December 13, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
A very well done film that is 9/10 love story and 1/10 moral dilemma
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I really enjoyed this film.

This review has the benefit of seeing previous reviews.

Yes, as stated, there is some relatively obvious sex and nudity. This is not a movie for the kiddies.

If you were going into the film expecting an expose of the deposed Kaiser (which, honestly the trailers do kind of imply) then I could see those aspects being undesirable.

The movie actually revolves around two characters, and the Kaiser, the Princess, and their entourage are bit players to bring out the main plot.

** Beware Spoilers Follow **

The main characters are Hauptman (Captain) Brandt and an attractive, female member of the house staff.

We find out almost immediately that the maid is actually a British spy, and Brandt figures it out pretty rapidly too. By the by, so does the Kaiser who is still a very cagey person despite his staff's feelings about his capabilities.

She is also Jewish, something that she reveals to Brandt almost immediately.

So, the story really revolves around what to do with conflicted loyalties and what does devotion and honor mean when your country has devolved into a despicable morass.

(Just to be clear, there were no parallels either obvious or even implied with history after World War II - in other words, this movie steers well clear of any current controversies, and for one this viewer appreciated that.)

The Kaiser, the Princess, their Aide de Camp, Brandt, and the love interest cum spy were all very well developed characters and all of them were appealing in some ways -- and clearly not in others.

All in all, a very good film about a difficult period in human history.
26 people found this helpful
N WogulisReviewed in the United States on July 14, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Star of the Exception
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I loved this movie! Good to see Christopher Plummer again. I was not familiar with Jai Courtnay, but thought his performance was great as a typical
young Nazi Captain, who obviously has issues with his new assignment. I liked the way the opening scene is finally revealed through his sharing of his issues.His nervousness is shown not only through his dreams, but also his chain smoking. He turns out to be the star of the movie for me. He does a great job with a many sided character-duty, honor, country, no matter what vs right, wrong and love.
32 people found this helpful
Stanger 07Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Thank You, Christopher Plummer
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Eerily, I watched this movie the day before Christopher Plummer’s death. I enjoyed his acting in this film immensely, as I have in countless others of his movies. The movie itself was fascinating, in that I don’t remember ever seeing a movie portraying Kaiser Wilhelm II in the aftermath of World War I. As far as the ravagement of Lily James’ character by the German army captain in an early scene, which seemed to have repulsed one reviewer, you have to watch the whole movie to understand her motivation for her meek compliance with the act. It makes sense later on in the story. I loved this movie.

Apparently, Mr. Plummer was never thrilled with his portrayal of Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, considering it to have been wooden and humorless. I respectfully disagree. It’s what made his transformation later in the movie more dramatic. The next time I see him sing Edelweiss in Sound of Music, I know I will shed some tears. R.I.P. Mr. Plummer. You were a treasure we will continue to enjoy on our screens forever.
3 people found this helpful
Elizabeth SpringerReviewed in the United States on July 26, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Weak plot with gratuitous graphic sex
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Given the big names involved in this production (including hot rising star Lily James and veteran Christopher Plummer), I expected more. The summary of the plot sounds intriguing enough: set in Occupied Holland in 1940, the story revolves around characters at the home of the aged, exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm II. But the characters are never developed and the plot is a tissue of clichés. None of it has any believable motivation and, despite more than a decent performance by Plummer, the link to actual history is so flimsy and warped by fantastical nonsense that it is barely watchable.

On top of that, the on-screen "romance" between Mieke (Lily James) and Captain Brant (Jai Courtney) is in reality a contemptible series of one-night stands that include fairly graphic on-screen sex scenes, including what normal people would consider anal rape by a total stranger (and which should have earned it an X-rating, in my book). For some reason, Mieke's character is just fine with it all.

The attitudes portrayed in this film are thoroughly 21st century - no person in 1940 would have behaved this way. In fact, no actual human would behave this way. This movie is peopled with cardboard cut-outs.

So much more could have been made of this movie since the basic story is intriguing. But no-one is ever truly surprised by the identity of the English spy in the Kaiser's household because without the presence of alternative candidates there is no mystery, no suspense. A lot of opportunities are wasted.

Gorgeous sets and costume design, superb scenery. How disappointing that it's all just empty costumes.
6 people found this helpful
Don GraeterReviewed in the United States on August 25, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Just Excellent!!
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A long time fan of WWII thrillers and having liked Lily James in Downton Abbey, I picked this out of the blue based entirely on the Amazon customer reviews and the subject matter. It was just excellent. The acting is superb, the story and characters believable and, most of all, I really cared what happened to each of them.

Others have described the plot. I will simply add that, having seen many, many WWII movies over the years, I can say that this is one of the best in the thriller genre. I've been watching them for more than 50 years. You won't go wrong with this one.
15 people found this helpful
The Boss GuyReviewed in the United States on May 5, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Incredible Romance, Political, Military, Adventure, & Spy WW2 Movie. One of the 2010's Best Films.
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I had first heard of this film back in 2016, but unfortunately for myself & most other people this film had a limited release in the US theaters. Why was this awful decision made I will not ever understand, nor do I know why this film has not received it's due accolades it has earned. It was one of the best spy and WW2 films of the modern era, its an absolute joy of a movie with great acting ect.

Most of the story is fiction set within elements of true historical fact. We honestly have no idea if the Kaiser of real history was truly like the sweet decent character depicted by Christopher Plummer, but the film takes this historical real person and places them in an interesting setting, and portrays him a good guy light. The real Kaiser of true history, like the character depicted, was not a Nazi at all in anyway, but he did harbor very intense dislikes for Jewish people and others who were targeted at that time by the Hitler regime for slave labor, torture, and mass murder. The Kaiser of real history was not a man grand republican or democratist thought, he was a strong proponent of the old order where kings, queens, and Imperialists reigned the day and land or people should be rulled over. He had also been a product of his time where both the Lutheran ideals, and Catholic themed beliefs held strong sway over the average German person which back then was heavily anti-semitic and Prussian militaristic in thought.

The setting is at the war in Europe's start, where the Wehrmarcht is ramming through Europe at a fast pace. An infantry officer is assigned to act as a bodyguard, and snitch for the regime of the Kaiser in exile after the German Army takes control of Netherlands. But this young stud is not a Nazi, he is a German Soldier pure and simple with no dark agenda nor any desire for malice toward others unlike the villains who sent him to protect the Kaiser. His immediate supervisor is the Kaiser's butler or handler so to speak, an Imperial German Army Colonel who also is not a Nazi but his life is dedicated to the Kaiser and his well being. You see political elements that had existed at the time in Germany such as the Constitutional Monarchists or old Imperial Germans who have been largely cast asside as the Nazi Party took over and controlled the agenda. Some of these older school of thought Germans had still held their positions inside the Army, as they see ever increasing hostile actions and criminal influence from the Waffen SS along with other insidious Nazi Party themed officials. Most modern Americans, and people through out the world when looking at WW2 history see a portrait of Germany that was all Hitler or all Nazi, but in real history that was certainly not true, Germany still had citizens who were social Democrats or Monarchists that had to live in silence or face jail or death by the terrible regime who controlled their society.

The Infantry Officer hears word that there is a British MI6 spy ring somewhere in the area who might try to pull some move against or with the Kaiser, and he finds himself investigating this on his own while in secret he also tries to avoid the dreaded operations of the Gestapo who at first think this Captain can be controlled as a fellow associate. Over time he finds out more and more, and tries to carry out his mission the best he can to protect the Kaiser from harm or negative influences.

What we have a grand artistic work here of fine movie quality. I would argue this film is one of the absolute best of the 2010's, and yes that was a decade of generally terrible multi million dollar trash fest films (such as Transformers or Godzilla) or politically correct dribble pieces (Disney Star Wars) which for various reasons were the films that dominated the market that had pushed good works like this one asside. Yes most of this tale is fiction, but the setting is based in real history, and thank goodness we do not have historical revinsionism or fantasy passed as fact unlike other set period movies made in more recent years. We have romantic lovers, we have heroes, and we have villains so this is a great addition to add to one's WW2 collection or anyone who likes decent spy adventure yarns. I did not agree with the rating of R, but that is also the hypersensativity of modern America, but still its a fine movie for ages 13 and above. Thumbs way up and A+ for "The Exception", a gold standard movie lost in modern times in a sea of garbage movies and tv shows.
One person found this helpful
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