After WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II was exiled as part of the peace negotiated at Versailles. Families who prospered under the old system hoped for his eventual return, even as the Nazis rose to power and transformed the nation.
The Exception (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD) is set in the early days of World War II. After Germany invades the Netherlands, German Captain Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney, Suicide Squad & Terminator: Genisys) is sent to the Utrecht to oversee the deposed Kaiser (Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music & Beginners) and his family's security detail. Brandt is haunted by atrocities he witnessed during the invasion of Poland but he believes them to be an exception and not the standard practice it became in the new Germany.
He immediately falls for the Dutch servant Mieke (Lily James, Baby Driver & Cinderella) who turns out to be both Jewish and a Resistance spy. They get involved in an intense, R-rated romance that will have enormous implications before the movie ends.
Brandt's assignment is to gather intel on the Kaiser's attitude towards the Nazi government. Wilhelm's wife (Janet McTeer) is determined to regain the throne and she attempts to stage-manage her husband to maximize their chances.
Plummer is outstanding as the cranky old ruler who prefers feeding the ducks and his shooting outings to the prospect of returning Germany. Before we get too sympathetic to his cause, the Kaiser lets loose with some casual anti-Semitism that's every bit as foul as the ideas promoted by the Nazis as Mieke stands by and listens.
Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marsan, Atomic Blonde & Ray Donovan) comes to visit and tells the Kaiser that Hitler wants him to return to Berlin as a symbolic ruler. He also shocks everyone with his enthusiastic descriptions of the new killing techniques under development by the Reich for use on what they've determined to be the inferior races.
As the family prepares to leave, Himmler tells Brandt that it's all a ruse to flush out the royalists. At the same time, the Germans are tracking down the Resistance and getting close to exposing Mieke. Brandt has to make a choice whether to stay loyal to country or share the knowledge and fight the Nazis.
Director David Leveaux has a long career in theater but this is his first movie. The Exception is never quite a full-blown thriller but it's a fascinating character study and the love scenes are a throwback to 70s movies when everyone was happy to indulge in their newfound cinematic freedom.