Set in the Netherlands during the last year of World War II, Winter in Wartime follows a plucky teen as he helps and harbors a downed RAF pilot hiding in the woods, watches as his father, the town's mayor, tries to conciliate and placate the Nazis, and gets drawn into dangerous Resistance intrigue via a visiting uncle.

A compelling coming-of-age story with a dramatic and historic backdrop, director Martin Koolhoven's handsome film is an adaptation of a 1970s young-adult novel. While it sometimes plays like an old-style boys' adventure yarn - the suspense is ratcheted up with timely misfortunes and improbable acts of derring-do - Winter in Wartime benefits from top-notch production values and a sturdy performance from its young lead, Martijn Lakemeier.

When a British fighter plane comes spiraling down to Earth in a fiery blaze, Lakemeier's Michiel and his best friend run out to the wreckage, poking and exploring like the kids they are. By the film's end, the look in Michiel's eyes has taken a harder sheen. His childhood games have given way to the serious consequences of war and sacrifice.

Winter in Wartime, which was screened two years ago at the Sundance Film Festival, boasts a squad (or two) of nasty Nazis, a pretty young nurse (Michiel's sister, played by Melody Klaver), and a brave, boyish Brit - Jamie Campbell Bower as the crash-landed and wounded pilot, Jack.

There are chases and betrayals, and Koolhoven and his crew imbue the boy's bold exploits with an epic sweep.EndText

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.