DVD Reviews, Lead DVD ReviewRating: 4 of 5 yaps
Winter in Wartime
It took nearly three years for this Dutch war drama to be released stateside, but I’m really glad Sony Pictures brought it in and decided to distribute it.
“Winter in Wartime” takes place in the final months of WWII in picturesque Holland, which is Nazi-occupied at the time. The lead role is that of a 13-year-old boy named Michiel (played brilliantly by Martijn Lakemeier) who befriends a British paratrooper recently shot down in the area. Michiel, with the help of his nurse sister Erica, bring the ailing soldier back to health and plot to escape him into safer territory.
The parental figureheads in Michiel’s life, in constant opposition to each other, are his father, Johan, and his uncle Ben. Johan is the mayor of their small Dutch village and in part feels it’s necessary to keep the peace with the Nazis. Ben, on the other hand, is a well-known freedom fighter and has been part of the Resistance movement for some time now.
Within this internal struggle of good vs. evil lies an innocent teenage boy’s struggle to keep some semblance of childhood amidst absolute tyranny. Amongst the strong-minded will of the adults surrounding him, Michiel is forced to take on a responsibility most modern-day people wouldn’t face in a lifetime. It’s a film about growing up fast but all the while being able to think for yourself. It’s this extremely powerful message of courage and determination that drives the film forward — not to mention that it is beautifully shot and superbly acted.
What sets “Winter in Wartime” apart from so many other WWII period pieces is the simplicity of its narrative. I sometimes hate the fact that wartime films feel the need to be epic — that is to say taking four hours of film to express what should be restrained to two hours. Don’t get me wrong; I love films in the vein of “Patton” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” but “Winter in Wartime” is a different type of war film.
There are no fancy frills in terms of the plot; in fact, there is only one significant plot twist and that happens towards the end. Most people would see this as a deterrent, but this film is as adventurous and thrilling as any top-notch WWII piece. I just really enjoyed the straightforward nature of the film, and it’s refreshing to see the brutality of war through the eyes of a teenage boy.
In terms of films, I feel as if the WWII genre has long ago run dry. We’re 60-plus years removed from the war itself and still churning out revisionist storytelling year after year. I’m not sure if the public will ever be satiated by “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” but I, for one, will forever be thrilled by this period in time. Thankfully, “Winter in Wartime” brings a rather unique and refreshing retelling of the same old adages to the forefront. It most reminded me of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” in a way but with more of a historical-minded perspective.
I wasn’t able to catch “Winter in Wartime” in theaters, but I have to say this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is the next best thing. The Blu-ray quality is downright gorgeous — so vivid you might even want to bundle up given the harsh winter setting. There’s something about watching films set in blistery-cold environments that really helps beat the heat in the summer months. The Blu-ray disc also includes a “making-of” portion, which is about 20 minutes long. It’s nothing particularly special, but probably worth the watch for behind-the-scenes nerds. All in all, it’s a pretty solid package with a beautiful transfer.
Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 3 Yaps