The Exception (2016)

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Date Created: 09/01/2018
Date Modified: 09/01/2018
Runtime: 107 min -
A German soldier tries to determine if the Dutch resistance has planted a spy to infiltrate the home of Kaiser Wilhelm in Holland during the onset of World War II, but falls for a young Jewish Dutch woman during his investigation.
The Exception is a 2016 romantic war drama film directed by David Leveaux (in his directorial debut) and written by Simon Burke, based on the 2003 novel The Kaiser's Last Kiss by Alan Judd. The film stars Jai Courtney, Lily James, Janet McTeer and Christopher Plummer.[4] The plot is a fictionalized account of the last few days in the life of exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II (Plummer), where a German soldier (Courtney) tries to determine if the Dutch resistance has planted a spy to infiltrate the Kaiser's home in Holland during the onset of World War II, but falls for a young Jewish Dutch woman (James) during his investigation.

In 2014, Egoli Tossell Film announced that development on a film adaptation of Judd's novel had begun. Principal photography lasted six weeks in 2015, across Belgium. The film held its world premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations section.[5] The film received a limited release and video-on-demand release on 2 June 2017 through A24 and DirecTV Cinema in the United States. The film was released on 2 October 2017 in the United Kingdom through Signature Entertainment.

During World War II, Captain Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is sent to head the personal bodyguard of exiled KaiserWilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) at his home in Utrecht, Netherlands. Following the invasion, Nazi authorities are concerned that Dutch spies may be watching Wilhelm. Upon arriving at the residence, Brandt is drawn into an unexpected and passionate romance with Mieke de Jong (Lily James), one of the maids; Mieke soon reveals to Brandt that she is secretly Jewish. Gestapo Inspector Dietrich (Mark Dexter) informs Brandt that the British Secret Service have an agent in a nearby village. In addition to keeping an eye on the Kaiser, Brandt is to determine and report the identity of the agent. It turns out to be Mieke, who reports to a pastor at the local church on events at the Kaiser's home. When SS Commander Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan) decides to visit with a large SS platoon, Brandt is forced to choose between following the Nazi party agenda and protecting Mieke.

As his involvement with Mieke continues, Brandt notices a smell of gun oil from her room. He later sees Mieke leaving the residence grounds and follows. Mieke visits again with the pastor and, unaware that Brandt is watching outside a window, tells the pastor that she is prepared to assassinate Himmler (as revenge for the SS killing her father and husband). The SS then intercept the pastor’s radio transmissions to Britain; they arrest and mercilessly beat the pastor. Shortly after, Wilhelm's wife Hermine (Janet McTeer) discovers the lovers’ affair and notifies Wilhelm, expecting him to dismiss Mieke and discipline Brandt. However, Wilhelm supports the relationship; in private, he reveals to the lovers that he fathered illegitimate children prior to meeting Hermine.

When the time comes to have the house searched before Himmler's arrival, Brandt himself searches Mieke's room to protect her ruse. After Himmler’s arrival, Brandt learns that the pastor has revealed Mieke as the British agent; he locates and urges her to go. She refuses, insisting that she has a duty. Meanwhile, Himmler extends to Wilhelm an invitation from Hitler to return to Berlin. He then meets with Brandt and Dietrich, informing them of the gesture and its intention as a trap to expose and eradicate supporters of the monarchy restoration. Against orders, Brandt passes the information along to Wilhelm’s adjutant, Colonel Sigurd von Ilsemann (Ben Daniels).

Mieke does her duty and imparts to Wilhelm a message from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Wilhelm is offered asylum in Great Britain and will be restored to the German throne after the defeat of the Nazis; he refuses, preferring not to leave Utrecht. As the Gestapo closes in on the mansion, searching for Mieke, Brandt devises an escape plan. Wilhelm, Mieke and Brandt escape in a van with Wilhelm pretending to have had a heart attack; Brandt kills Dietrich and another suspicious officer in the process. Deep in the woods, Mieke decides to flee, asking Brandt join her; she fears he will be executed for the murders. Brandt, however, insists that he has a duty to Germany and a protective alibi (he brought Wilhelm to hospital, while Mieke killed the officers and escaped). The two decide to part ways, with Mieke telling Brandt to find her after the war. As Mieke departs, Brandt repeats a marriage proposal that Mieke had earlier refused in fear. This time, she accepts, and disappears into the woods.

Some time later, Brandt is seen at a desk in a Berlin office. He is delivered a package, which contains a book of Nietzsche writings that Mieke had shown him; inside is written a London address. In London, Mieke is seated on a park bench when she is informed that the Prime Minister is ready to see her. Rising, Mieke puts her hand on her belly; she is pregnant. In Brandt’s office, an air raid siren sounds. Though others evacuate, Brandt remains seated, reading Mieke’s book; a plane is heard flying overhead as the screen cuts to black.


Lily James as Mieke de Jong
Jai Courtney as Captain Stefan Brandt
Janet McTeer as Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz
Christopher Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm II
Eddie Marsan as Heinrich Himmler
Ben Daniels as Colonel Sigurd von Ilsemann
Mark Dexter as Dietrich
Directed byDavid Leveaux
Produced by
  • Lou Pitt
  • Judy Tossell
Written bySimon Burke
Based onThe Kaiser's Last Kiss
by Alan Judd
Music byIlan Eshkeri
CinematographyRoman Osin
Edited byNicolas Gaster
  • Egoli Tossell Film
  • Ostar Productions
  • Alton Road Productions
  • Silver Reel
  • Lotus Entertainment
  • Umedia
  • Film House Germany
  • Screen Flanders
Distributed by
  • A24 (United States)
  • Signature Entertainment (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • 12 September 2016 (TIFF)
  • 2 June 2017(United States)
  • 2 October 2017(United Kingdom)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Box office$803,571