Review: Sisu

Sisu poster

A gory, grisly action movie straight from a time when movies were simpler!

In Finland at the tail end of World War 2, a war veteran goes on a rampage against a band of Nazis.

Directed by Jalmari Helander, who you may or may not know from 2014’s Big Game starring Samuel L. Jackson as the US President surviving the crash of Air Force One, Sisu is a far more gritty affair. Following Aatami, played by Jorma Tommila, who is alone and silently living in the harsh wilderness of Finland, having chosen to isolate himself from the war. With his trusted horse and faithful dog, he mines for gold.
Unfortunately, a convoy of Nazis, limping home and destroying anything in sight as they go, encounter him… But Aatami is no ordinary old man alone in the wilderness…

The trailer for this film makes it out like it is non-stop carnage as a wild old man tears through Nazis like a lawnmower through a flower patch… But in reality, Sisu is surprisingly paced. Jalmari Helander wants to show you the wilderness, the grittiness, the isolation that this man lives in. Actor Jorma Tommila barely speaks, but his performance is raw and surprisingly real for how insane things escalate.

This might throw some audiences at first. Sisu actually reminds of Tarantino: It has a grain to the film quality, it is divided into chapters, it has a styling and premise from a 1970s or 1980s movie. It is a simple premise, and really, we are overblown with “complicated” (artificial or otherwise) movies these days, it is great to see a movie that knows what it is and knows how to get you invested as quickly as possible.

Pissed off Finnish man in Sisu
You really, really don’t want to mess with Aatami…

The film opens with the definition of its title: a near supernatural strength and persistent born from extreme adversity and lack of little or no hope.

The film uses the Nazis, a commanding officer played by Aksel Hennie and his second in command played by Jack Doolan, as a means to deliver exposition since Aatami is all alone and the film gratefully doesn’t have him talk to himself. This works well as we will automatically sympathize with the downtrodden Finnish man, and we have to learn about the antagonists through their conversations.
But we are here for the gore, and wow, is there some spectacular gore. Even those of us who have seen a lot of on-screen gore can still wince at some of the moments here. From a particularly horrific manner in which Aatami must save his own life… to some of the visceral kills he lays down on these Nazis. Rambo eat your heart out (not literally, please)
Some are spectacularly silly as well, the film doesn’t go hardcore grimdark; it has a good sense of humour lurking underneath. Tossing a mine at someone and they explode on contact? That’s awesome.

It isn’t entirely perfect. The villains are pretty basic villains. They are Nazis, of course, but hubris should only come into play so many times; the commander has multiple opportunities to kill this man… but he doesn’t. Even after he is told of this legendary man’s nickname: The Immortal. After you hear that you make sure he is dead.

But Sisu was a lot of fun. A lot of fun! If you can tolerate gore or someone stitching themselves up, it is definitely the action movie to see. Perhaps even higher than John Wick 4 this year.

4 out of 5 stars

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