Another bit of cinematic escapism from talented writer-director Jalmari Helander, Sisu is a film that embraces a simple concept and a sense of the ridiculous, yet also stays within touching distance of plausibility, to give viewers a blood-soaked thrill ride that almost outshines any other “one man/woman army” from the past year or so. And this year has included the mighty John Wick: Chapter 4.
It is nearing the end of World War II. The dying days, if you will. Keeping himself apart from any of the last battles, one man (Jorma Tommila) spends his time prospecting for gold. And he finds it. A sizable amount. It looks like a happy life ahead for him, but that all changes when he starts transporting the gold and encounters a number of Nazis standing in his way. Nazis are always bad news, but Nazis that know the war is ending and decide that someone else’s gold could help them have a comfortable post-war life are very bad news indeed for our hero.
Sisu doesn’t take long to get going, and once it does . . . hoooo boy, it doesn’t stop. Aatami (the name of the main character) is a strong and very silent type, almost not speaking at all during the movie, and he knows exactly where to hit people to kill them off as quickly as possible while his body acquires more wounds and scars. Aside from the usual guns and bladed weaponry, Aatami uses mines, vehicles, and a hefty pickaxe to kill off the Nazis dumb enough to pick a fight with him.
Tommila is excellent in the main role, suitably grizzled and looking very capable of causing the carnage that he does, and all of the actors playing his enemies have that air of smugness and, well, Nazi-ism that has you looking forward to every one of them getting their comeuppance. Aksel Hennie plays the big bad, the one person who both embodies the general horribleness of Nazis and also makes things very personal in time for the finale, and he does a great job of being stupidly confident in the face of a gathering storm of fatal violence. As well as our hero and villains, there are also a number of captive women who prove invaluable in helping Aatami to whittle down the numbers of his enemies, and the actresses easily hold their own in a film that could have easily forgotten to include any female characters at all.
There’s a cracking score, courtesy of Juri Seppä and Tuomas Wäinölä, brilliant effects to fill the screen with bloodshed and grim deaths, and chapter breaks that essentially work as links between the memorable set-pieces. The film is inventive, perfectly-paced (the runtime is a very welcome 90 minutes, approximately), and manages to make every scar, on land or skin, look much more visually interesting than expected. Helander has given film fans yet another brilliant killer who can watch enemy faces turn pale when they learn of his name. His reputation precedes him, in the movie world, and I hope we get more opportunities to watch him do what he does best.
What he does best is kill people in a variety of gory ways, in case that wasn’t obvious.
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