Directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Rutger Hauer, it is an adaptation of the 1970 memoirs of Dutch war veteran and resistance fighter Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. In pre-war Holland, five friends toast to the future. When the Netherlands is invaded by Germany, they each go their separate ways as some join the resistance and others try to quietly cope with the occupation.
It was adapted for the stage in 2010.
This film provides examples of:
- Bavarian Fire Drill: The film features one of the ballsier examples, when a Dutch Resistance member is able to infiltrate a German officer's party in a British Royal Navy officer's uniform, because it looks similar enough to a Kriegsmarine one "...at a distance". At one point, he bluffs his way right through a German roadblock by looking the guards in the eyes sternly. They are left wondering about the meaning of that strange, crown-like emblem on his hat.
- Bittersweet Ending: The war is over, but only Erik and Jacques have survived it and reunite to celebrate the liberation.
- Black-and-White Morality: The Dutch resistance and their British allies are clearly heroic, the German occupiers and their fascist collaborators are clearly evil. Notably, this contrasts with Verhoeven's later film Zwartboek, which applies Black-and-Gray Morality to the same conflict.
- Blind Without 'Em: Erik is initially hesitant to join the military because of his bad eyesight (he tells his friends that everything at a distance looks fuzzy), which he needs to wear strong glasses to correct. After he escapes to England, he aspires to join the RAF, and while his bad eyesight would normally disqualify him, he is able to cheat his way through the eye exam after Susan smashes his glasses and gives him a piece of one of the lenses, which he palms in the hand with which he is supposedly covering one eye.
- Camping a Crapper: Alex goes to fight on the eastern front with the Waffen-SS. He's killed when he's busy taking a dump in an outhouse and a Russian boy throws a grenade through the window.
- Les Collaborateurs: Alex joins the Waffen-SS when his other friends join the Dutch resistance. He later dies on the Russian front in rather ignominious circumstances.
- Couldn't Find a Pen: When Erik is arrested by the Germans and put in prison, he writes a letter to the warden asking for his release using toilet paper and his own excrement. The Germans are not amused.Warden: Man, have you gone mad?!Erik: I didn't have a pen.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: After their arrival in England, Guus initially enlists in the Royal Army, and in the one scene where he is undergoing basic training, we see him crawling on his stomach across a muddy field surrounded by barbed wire as his drill instructor screams profanity-laden tirades at him and his fellow soldiers if they don't keep their heads down or their rifles dry.
- Foreign Fanservice: Susan, the British intelligence officer, has sex scenes with several members of the Dutch resistance.
- Historical Domain Character: HM Queen Wilhelmina, who was evacuated from the Netherlands to England after the country fell to the Nazis in May 1940, appears leading the Dutch government in exile, played by Andrea Domburg. She meets Erik, Guus, and Will after their arrival in London, and Erik eventually becomes her aide after his heroics as a bomber pilot.
- How We Got Here: The film opens with newsreel footage of Queen Wilhelmina's return to the Netherlands after the country's liberation in May 1945; the picture quality noticeably improves for a shot of a blond man wearing glasses. We then flash back to 1938, when the bespectacled man was in his first year at the University of Leiden, and follow him and his friends through assorted tragedies and triumphs of World War II, ending with his return as the Queen's aide after the end of the war.
- Kick the Dog:
- A bunch of local collaborators bully an old Jewish man by throwing his bicycle into the canal. When Jan sees this he punches them both in the face and throws them into the water too.
- When Alex is on the Eastern Front, a Russian boy begs for the bread he is eating; Alex throws it into a nearby mud puddle. The outraged boy throws a stick grenade through the window of the latrine Alex enters immediately afterward.
- The Mole:
- After Jan and Erik are arrested, Jan taps a message on the water pipes to Erik that their attempted escape to England was betrayed to the Nazis by a man named van der Zanden in London. This turns out to be a lie spread by the Nazis themselves to undermine Dutch confidence in van der Zanden, who is helping the Allies plan counterattacks in the Netherlands. Erik almost shoots van der Zanden to avenge Jan before learning the truth.
- Robby sold out his friends to the Germans and lured them into a trap during the beach operation. He's later assassinated by Guus, who is himself arrested in the process.
- Phallic Weapon: The protagonist has just become a bomber pilot and boasts of all the German cities he can bomb, while having sex with his girlfriend. Unfortunately he has a premature 'explosion' before completing his list.
- La Résistance: It's pretty much a heroic tale of the Dutch resistance fighting against the German occupiers.
- Roll in the Hay: A group of Dutch soldiers catches a couple having sex in a hay barrack. The local idiot actually wasted their time by reporting that there were invading German soldiers in the barn.
- Roman à Clef: As well as Erik Lanshof being the film's equivalent of Soldier of Orange author Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, many of the characters are based on Dutch resistance fighters. For example, Guus Lejeune is an amalgamation of Olympic rower Ernst de Jonge (who was captured by the Germans in 1942 and executed two years later), Peter Tazelaar (whose later career working behind the Iron Curtain for the United States inspired a scene in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger), and Chris Krediet, while General van der Zanden is based on Dutch-British intelligence co-ordinator François van 't Sant.
- Traumatic Haircut: After the war, one of Erik's female friends is forcibly shaved for sleeping with a German soldier. She says she doesn't blame them, though.