Winter in Wartime (Blu-ray)
World War II is a breeding ground for filmmakers. Hitler is a built in villain whose evil is only rivaled by the devil, so it is no wonder that these historic accounts are emotionally impactful and ripe with stories. While WINTER IN WARTIME isn’t the best-told story, it still manages to be moving because of the brutal injustice done to innocent people.
Based on the bestselling novel by Jan Terlouw, WINTER IN WARTIME takes place in a Nazi occupied Holland during the last winter of World War II. 13-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) desperately wants to make a difference in the war. His two role models are his father, the mayor who continually tries to keep the peace in the town making sure his people are not killed, and Michiel’s uncle who has been a part of the underground resistance and appears to have more of a fire to fight the opposition. After secretly obtaining an important letter containing the whereabouts of a wounded British pilot hiding in a bunker, young Michiel takes it upon himself to help the soldier even at the risk of his family and friends.
With a captivating premise, the film opens strongly providing an emotional setting and introducing interesting characters that we care about. It’s a shame some character choices become contradicting to his or hers previous actions for an unfortunate and unnecessary twist ending. Young Lakemeier does an impressive job with his performance as a young boy desiring to become a man inside a war setting. His constant struggle to keep his motives pure while selfishly wanting to do things on his own is performed with the precision of a skilled professional. The supporting cast around him holds a strong presence and make up for his lack of experience at times. Ultimately the film hinges on Lakemeier and his believability to show his character grow.
Highlighting the beautiful white snow and saturated colors, the cinematography looks amazing. Obviously, winter is a key element to the story and director Martin Koolhoven pulls this technical aspect off exquisitely. From the costuming to the art direction every frame is filled with a story that speaks more than the dialogue. However, there were also many irrelevant shots that went on far too long. This is most apparent in the second act where much of the action fails to progress the story further and becomes a bit of a bore. When the third act finally comes, the film falls into an odd action movie trap by over dramatizing the storyline coupled with exaggerated visual gimmicks. The history of the time period proves dramatic enough without unnecessary camera tricks and absurd plot points.
Overall, the film lags and ends in an over the top storyline that very nearly feels like it’s using the time period to gain sympathy for a coming of age story. But the great technical production utilizing the backdrop of the Nazi filled Holland along with a few key scenes are what ultimately give WINTER IN WARTIME a passing grade.
Video: (1080p High Definition 2.35:1) This is really the best part of the film, as the picture looks terrific bringing out the cold blues from the wintery season during a terrible time.
Audio: (Dutch, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA) The sound does a terrific job restraining itself by picking up on the silent sounds of winter.
Making of Winter in Wartime (24:24): Clearly a passion project adapting the book by Jan Terlouw, the actors and filmmakers compliment everything and everyone involved with the film while on set. We see some interesting before and after shots that created the snowy and desolate look and the extraordinarily large amount of fake snow used.
Theatrical Trailer and some BD-Live extras