Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Sisu ★★★



Directed: Jalmari Helander

Cast: Jorma Tommila, Jack Doolan, Aksel Hennie, Onni Tommila, Mimosa Willamo

Released: 25th May 2023

Premiering at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival, Sisu is the third feature by Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander. Starring Jorma Tommilla and Aksel Hennie (The Martian), the film follows a lone prospector, Aatami Korpi (Tommilla), in Finnish Lapland during World War II. Upon discovering a hefty gold deposit, he ventures towards the nearest town to bank his discovery but quickly encounters a Nazi death squad led by Bruno Helldorf (Hennie). With his gold at risk, Korpi has to defend himself.

There have been a lot of loner antihero films with a seemingly driven and immortal protagonist. Whether it be Rambo or John Wick, cinema has proven that you should never judge a book by its cover. The same applies to Sisu, which takes its title from the eponymous Finnish concept of intense determination and courage in adverse situations. Korpi is a mostly mute protagonist whose steely-blue stare gives nothing away, even when a group of cocky Nazis confront him on the road. Upon discovering his gold, they mistake him for an old man and an easy victim, only to become the victims of his swift and unhinged actions.

In the words of Inglorious Basterds Aldo Raine, Sisu focuses on one thing and one thing only – killin’ Nazis. It is not exactly the most imaginative of narratives, especially when bold yellow Tarantino-esque chapter title cards and a booming score hit the screen, offering a modern though unoriginal vibrancy to this historical action film. In addition, these elements do not prevent the film from lagging at times due to the Nazis’ persistence in chasing down Korpi and stealing his gold.

Sisu’s simple plot also keeps the characters in a war-ridden bubble where they have been physically and mentally scarred by combat. Korpi is riddled with deep scars across his body and has the willpower to undergo self-surgery, despite how painful it is. Meanwhile, Helldorf is pessimistic about Germany’s fortunes in the war and subsequently wants Korpi’s gold to secure his future. Although this doesn’t stop him from being a cold-hearted asshole, Helldorf’s demeanour provides a bleak but realistic perspective in comparison to the other soldiers who are seemingly content yet arrogant enough to keep fighting – or know that it is better to escape rather than face Korpi’s badassery. As straightforward as the character development is, Helander enables enough backstory for audiences to know who to cheer for or boo without the risk of blurred lines or cliché flashes of moral conscience. 

With twists and confusion kept to a minimum, Helandar promises the gory and violent end to a load of Nazis, and he delivers this in abundance. Sisu’s screenplay doesn’t include a lot of dialogue, but the film doesn’t need to say too much – instead, the audience is entertained by a melee of stabbings, gunfights, explosions, and even immolations with the wince factor dialled up to 1,000. Even a brief show of empowering retribution involving a group of female captives is incredibly satisfying. Tommilla brilliantly plays the gutsy silent-yet-deadly hero, whose expressive performance brings an unexpected layer of complexity that lifts his stoic nature. As Helldorf, Hennie provides a wonderful counterpart for Tommila’s Korpi – equally cold and calculating, yet his arrogance in winning (buoyed by his soldiers, weapons and tanks) causes him to massively underestimate his foe.

Sisu offers a 91-minute massacre with deftly captured shots and wonderfully skilled action pieces, delivering heaps of blood-drenched fun. If Violent Night’s Santa had a Finnish cousin, it would be Sisu’s badass Aatami Korpi.

Just For You