It’s not often that I want to review a war film, but having been totally blown over by Paul Verhoeven’s brilliant 2006 World War II drama Black Book I couldn’t resist seeing Winter in Wartime as I it comes from the same producer.
This Dutch blockbuster – it was the big Christmas film in The Netherlands last year – is set in January 1945 in Nazi occupied Holland. In a German occupied village, the local mayor Johan tries to keep order. His 14-year-old son Michiel (Martijin Lakemeir) thinks his father is a Nazi lap dog and doesn’t give him the time of day. Instead he worships his uncle Ben, a member of the Resistance who is keeping a low profile living with the family.
When Michiel comes across a map showing the hiding place of Jack, a downed RAF pilot (nicely played by Harry Potter actor Jamie Campbell Bower) hiding out in the snow-covered forests outside his village, he sets off in a bid to prove he can also be a hero. On finding Jack injured, Michiel is forced to rope in his nurse sister to help. What follows is a life and death struggle as the two siblings attempt to get Jack to a safe port before the Nazis close in.
With breathtaking photography, a gripping story – expect some surprising twists – and mature performances from the mainly young cast, Winter in Wartime is a cinematic masterpiece in the making. It also has a very strong message that war should never be treated as some kind of Boy’s Own adventure.