Four workmates at a Copenhagen nongovernmental human rights organization dealing with crimes against humanity find themselves at odds when some of them begin receiving ominous emails in the Danish psychological thriller The Exception (Undtagelsen; 2019). Director Jesper W. Nielsen’s riveting feature boasts superb performances from its four women leads along with plenty of mystery and intrigue to keep viewers engaged and guessing throughout.
Coworkers and close friends Iben (Daniela Curcic), who is suffering PTSD after being held captive in Kenya, and Malene (Amanda Collin), who is afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, share open-space working quarters with the relatively quiet Camilla (Lene Maria Christensen). Librarian Anne-Lise (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who has her own office with a door that Malene always wants closed, would like to be part of the trio’s circle, but they ignore and snub her, making her feel highly uncomfortable.
When one of the women receives an anonymous email with a threatening tone, their research and theories into human evil and violence begin to take hold in their office, with suspicions ranging from international criminals to each other. Screenwriter Christian Torpe, who adapted the script from the best-selling novel by Christian Jungersen, makes any of the characters’ speculative beliefs seem possible, and when they individually start behaving out of character by taking dangerous chances to uncover the truth, the tension heads into Hitchcockian territory.
Nielsen balances human drama between the four women and hand-wringing suspense in a highly impressive manner. He presents their psychological strengths and weaknesses — each one is given over to disturbing visions of one kind or another — and how they are affected by the work they do and their personal relationships with family, lovers, and friends. He also addresses problematic violence and the politics of evil with footage of actual historical atrocities to disturbing effect. The film is marvelously shot, framed, and scored, as well.
Curcic, Collin, Christensen, and Knudsen all give splendid performances, providing nuances and depth to their well-written characters. The supporting cast members, including Olaf Johannessen as their office manager Paul and Magnus Krepper as love triangle figure Gunnar, also turn in fine performances.
The Exception is a taut, riveting, and thought-provoking thriller that shows how evil can infect and spread more easily than many might think imaginable. The film’s suspense will keep viewers enthralled, while its philosophical messages will linger long after the ending credits roll.
The Exception will be released across all major UK Digital Platforms on 22nd January including iTunes, AppleTV, Sky Store, Google Play, Amazon, Virgin, Curzon Home Cinema and Chili (and BT on rental only from 1st February).