Tag Archives: Christopher Plummer

Subtle Performances Elevate ‘The Exception’


Christopher Plummer’s lone Oscar was a career achievement award and I think the man has been criminally underrated in his career.

“The Exception” is a romantic drama set in the early years of World War II. The plot follows a young Nazi officer (Jai Courtney) who is sent to keep an eye on the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II (Plummer), only to fall in love with one of his maids (Lily James). David Leveaux makes his feature film directorial debut after a career in stage work.


I love me a WWII-set drama. Even when the films themselves may be a bit underwhelming (“Allied”), the setting and production design usually sucks me into what is one of my favorite time periods in human history. Things are no different here, as while certain aspects of the film fail to deliver as much as they’d like, the setting, and a subtly brilliant performance by Christopher Plummer, make this one worth checking out.


Like I said up top, although he finally won an Oscar for “Beginners,” I feel Christopher Plummer doesn’t get the love he deserves. He quietly steals the show in films like “Inside Man” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and the 87-year-old is masterful again here. Plummer brings a sense of warmth to the Kaiser and I cherished every scene he was in. He makes you sympathize with him without feeling pity, relate without empathizing.


Following a surprisingly solid performance in “Suicide Squad,” Jai Courtney again shows that perhaps he can in fact act after all. There’s a running joke that Courtney is a bland and charismatic-less actor who Hollywood has tried to shove down our throats following top billing in big-budget blockbusters like “A Good Day to Die Hard” and “Terminator: Genisys,”  but I have to hand it to Courtney: he does a surprisingly nimble job here. Playing a Nazi with dark past and conflicting loyalties, Courtney never over-acts or makes you roll your eyes, which at this point in his career is a compliment.


Mostly taking place in Wilhelm’s mansion, the production design is a solid recreation of 1940 Netherlands. German cars and Nazi banners roam the grounds while chipped paint and rusted bedframes fill the bedrooms; much like the film’s performances the attention to detail is subtle but appreciated.


Where the film falters is its execution of its narrative. The film reveals that there is a British spy somewhere on the grounds and it is Courtney’s job to find them; however instead of building to some great twist, the culprit is revealed in the first 20 minutes. The romance between Courtney and James never fully feels fleshed out or earned, either, as they share just a few scenes together and we are to believe they fall in love over several days simply because they slept together.


“The Exception” is far from the best World War II film (it’s not even the best WWII romance to be released in the past year) and it is certainly forgettable. Normally a romantic thriller that struggles with both its romance and its thrills would turn out to be a disaster; however if you appreciate the time period and some fine performances, including a stunning Christopher Plummer, then I think this film may be an exception to the rule.


Critics Rating: 6/10



Pacino Back in Form as ‘Danny Collins’

Danny_Collins_Official_PosterWelcome back, classic Al Pacino.

Pacino stars as the titular role in “Danny Collins”, a film that follows an aging rocker who decides to make some life changes after receiving a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon. Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, and Bobby Cannavale all co-star while Dan Fogelman writes and makes his directorial debut.

There’s really no sugar-coating it, this is a story that we have seen before. A famous person in the final stage of their life realizes that they’ve made some mistakes, and set out to make peace and find redemption. “Danny Collins” never tries to stray from the course, but thanks to a fantastic cast and some fun writing, it is elevated above its cliché narrative.

I’m personally a fan of screenwriter Dan Fogelman. He may not be Tarantino, but his scripts, including “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” and the underrated “Last Vegas”, usually feature playful dialogue that lend themselves to fun scenes and character interaction. In “Collins”, he pens some great exchanges between Pacino and Annette Bening, who plays the manager of the hotel Pacino stays at, and their chemistry keeps the film from every getting stale.

I’m also a fan of Bobby Cannavale, and he turns in a solid performance here playing Pacino’s adult son who has never met his father. Cannavale brings the Italian charm that makes him so likeable, but at the same time gives a balance of hatred and unease in the scenes he shares with Pacino. He doesn’t want to forgive his father for being absent all his life but at the same time knows it isn’t fair to let his daughter grow up not knowing her grandfather. In the scenes with Pacino and Cannavale often no words are said, but both men do excellent jobs letting the audience know how they are feeling with their body expression and eyes.

While it is able to mostly overcome its familiar subject matter, there are times that “Danny Collins” becomes almost frustrating in how predictable it is. Whenever something is going right for a character you know bad news is right around the corner, and Danny’s addiction to drugs and alcohol seems to come-and-go as needed by the plot. The final act of the film is also somewhat poorly paced, slowing down considerably before rushing to a finish.

With a cast this talented and charming (Christopher Plummer and Nick Offerman both also make appearances), “Danny Collins” mostly overcomes its contrived moments and leaves the audience feeling good when the credits role. As the opening slide of the film states, this is “kind of, sorta” based on the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston, who discovered a letter from Lennon back in 2010, which makes the film just a tad bit more interesting.

Overlaid with John Lennon tracks and featuring one original song that I still have stuck in my head, “Danny Collins” is a feel-good film featuring a strong central performance from Pacino, who like Collins himself has recently entered into near self-parody in his work. If you’re looking for a tale about redemption and some fun interplay between some big name actors, then you’ll want to book a ticket to Danny Collins.

Critics Rating: 7/10