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Review: The Exception – “Looks at the darker side of human nature”

The Exception (aka Undtagelsen) tells the story of four women who work together in a Copenhagen-based humanitarian NGO (Non-Government Organisation), researching and publishing analysis on the socio-political and psychological factors and circumstances that give rise to war criminals and modern genocide. They begin to each receive disturbing and threatening anonymous emails believed at first to be from a Serbian war criminal, trust in their office rapidly erodes. Friendships erode as paranoia takes over when they begin to suspect someone within their group may be sending the emails. Danica Curcic (Out Stealing Horses) plays Iben, a writer haunted by her time held captive in Nigeria is close friends with fellow writer Malene recently diagnosed with arthritis, played by Amanda Collin (Raised By Wolves). They begin to suspect Camilla, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen and Westworld) may be attempting to undermine Malene in order to take her job within the NGO.

Directed by Jesper W. Nielsen, the film rapidly builds tension, as we begin to discover all is not it, seems to be, in what becomes an effective whodunit with enough twists and turns to keep an audience entertained and interested for the majority of the film.

The film also attempts to look at what drives people en-masse to harbour prejudices and hatred for another group of people and the psychology behind justifying and living with atrocities committed against fellow human beings. But in its attempt to examine such important and complex issues within the confines of what is essentially a plot-driven thriller, at times feel confused. The use of the film’s protagonists as a microcosm to examine these issues works very effectively within the first two-thirds of the film but begins to come unravelled in the final third as more standard thriller tropes come to the fore to tie up the plot and explain the whodunit aspect of the film. The final third feels laboured, unsure where and how to end and would have perhaps benefitted from some more ruthless editing.

The Exception does however work well as a thriller that looks at the darker side of human nature and what ordinary people can be capable of. It should also be applauded for attempting to examine the psychology of prejudice and hatred that manifests in bullying, intimidation and violence. With recent events in the US, the issues of prejudice and the consequences of it, make this film sadly more relevant than we would want.

The Exception is released digitally on 22nd January.

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