Set in the dying days of World War II, Winter in Wartime is about a boy named Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) and his efforts to fight back against the German occupation. He’s ashamed of and angry with his father (Raymond Thirty), who seems more concerned with appeasing the resident Germans (and thus keeping his family safe) than making any efforts to thwart the army. At the same time, Michiel idolises his visiting uncle Ben (Yorick van Wagneringen), however, who has links to the resistance movement. When Michiel discovers an English pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) who has crash landed in the woods near town, he sets about making it his mission to help the young man stay hidden from the Nazis.
Winter in Wartime is an entertaining film that nonetheless feels less emotive than it should be. Strangely, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the cause. Some of the bigger events feel overly melodramatic, and much of the cinematography overstates the point of each scene. Finally, it all seems a little bit too lethargic – some of the early segments tend to drag. Another problem is that Pino Donaggio’s score isn’t particularly memorable. It felt like a film such as this should have had a constant, ever-present soundtrack to provide the film with a sense of momentum.
That’s not to say that Winter in Wartime isn’t time well spent. This kind of focussed war flick is much more interesting that the usual examples of the genre, which are often much wider in scope. We get a true understanding of the situation faced by the townsfolk and a feel for the location itself. The abundance of snow contributes to the discoloured appearance of the film. It seems most of the reds were taken out in post-production (excepting the occasional Nazi banner), and overall we’re presented with a very stark vision indeed.
Lakemeier is good as Michiel, though perhaps doesn’t stand out in the same way that other young performers have in similar roles in the past (I’m thinking here particularly of Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun or Kåre Hedebrant in Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)), and I never really felt sympathy for Bower as the downed English pilot. Thiry (who could be Sam Neill’s long lost brother) gives a powerful performance, even though he barely ever speaks, whilst van Wagneringen’s scenes are among the best in the film.
A solid World War II thriller, Winter in Wartime isn’t quite as profound as it could have been.
Winter in Wartime is available on DVD now through Madman.Rating: