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The Exception
by Karen Pecota

It begins with a book The Kaiser's Last Kiss from author Alan Judd. Judd's highly acclaimed historical fiction novel sparks interest for a screenplay and is developed into a narrative of intrigue made for film in The Exception, under the direction of famous thespian filmmaker David Leveaux. Billed as a World War II thriller, the film’s plot takes on several twists and turns to share unforgettable stories of espionage and love. Details that make for a riveting narrative while wondering what is fact or fiction.

Judd's novel published in 2003, transports its reader into the era of World War II and the difficult decisions leaders of that day make according to the love of country, the devotion to its people and selfish gain.

Actors Lily James (Mieke de Jong) and Jai Courtney (Stefan Brandt) have been lucky enough to be a part of large franchise projects but both were looking forward to working with legendary thespian Christopher Plummer. Brandt says, "Chris is like a rare bird, in a sense where you are not often afforded the opportunity to sight one, let alone sort of play with it as well. I'll never forget that experience, watching him work is really special." James agrees and recalls a scene in the film in which the Kaiser is frustrated by war stories during Captain Brandt's first dinner at the estate. She explains, "I remember being in the dining room scene and it was really magical." She continues, "He has this explosion, and I'm supposed to just stand there, meek and not looking, but I wanted to stare at him because I was so drawn in." James adds, "He does it all in one take. It's so instant and it's so rich, I just loved watching him."


Exiled German Kaiser Whilheim II (Christopher Plummer) lives in Huis Doorn, his secluded country estate just outside of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Germany is in the process of taking over Holland and the authorities are concerned that Dutch spies may be watching the Kaiser.

A young German soldier, Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is assigned to investigate the situation. Taking with him a small group of German soldiers, the troop is a staged regiment to protect the Kaiser. Brandt is on the lookout for clues that would support the intelligence given to him by the SS Nazi Headquarters.

Brandt, having a watchful eye on the daily activities of the Kaiser, takes a special interest in one of the maids to the Kaiser's family named Mieke de Jong (Lily James). Brandt observes that the beautiful maid has the ear of the Kaiser that is somewhat unusual for her position. This is cause for concern thus Brandt must be careful with his findings and his attraction for her.

An unexpected passionate affair between Brandt and de Jong takes place. The secret relationship takes precedent especially when Brandt suspects Mieke of having Jewish connections, a fact that could jeopardize his duty to the German Reich, to the Kaiser (whom he has grown to admire) and to the woman he cannot live without.

The Kaiser and de Jong exchange unsettling words, deep conversations and share an experience most endearing that changes their fate.Heinrich Himmler (Eddie Marson) pays a visit to the Kaiser from which the exiled leader is hopeful the German Reich will put him back into power out of his love and duty to the German people.

Himmler makes no such advancement and a verbal showdown between the leaders set the stage for espionage activity at its best. Secrets are revealed, allegiances are tested and Brandt, de Jong and the Kaiser are forced to make the ultimate sacrifice between honoring country or following their heart.