Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Sisu (2022)

Sisu (2022)

A very simple, gruesome action film – which has the feel of a Finnish spaghetti western, set during the last weeks of World War II.  Divided into ominously-titled chapters, it revolves around the title term, a particularly Finnish mix of bloody-minded bravery and determination – as exemplified by Aatami (Jorma Tommila), a grim veteran of the winter war known as ‘the Immortal’ because of the many injuries he sustained while fighting a personal war against the Russians.  Now, with enmities shifted, he’s off in the wilderness with his horse and his dog, grimly prospecting for gold and making a big find … only as he’s trudging towards whatever unburned city he can find to convert heavy ingots to banknotes he runs into a retreating German unit – commanded by Bruno (Aksel Hennie) with sidekick Bruno (Jack Doolan) – who have a truckload of women looted as sex slaves from communities which have otherwise been massacred.

Aatami kills to save his gold, and a feud ensues – the women see him as a saviour, though he’s more determined to kill than rescue … while Bruno knows that the loot will enable him to survive in a post-war world when he’s liable to be a fugitive war criminal.  Tommila says nothing until late in the film, but has a grizzled, scarred, gritty presence and writer-director Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports) invests the character with mythic stature … he even takes on a supernatural angle as he inexplicably survives being hanged, shot, dunked in ice-water and otherwise subjected to treatment which would kill anyone else.  Typical is Aatami’s underwater survival trick – cutting the windpipe of a Nazi and sucking the air out of the dying man’s lungs – but he also uses a mine as a frisbee, cuts his way into a plane in flight (his versatile miner’s pick is his most reliable companion), uses German soldiers (and his gold-mining pan) as shields against gunfire.

It’s exceptionally violent, taking advantage of the fact that few complain about how many Nazis are killed off – but stylised to such an extent that the murderousness is mostly humorous … even when gun-toting women stalk an injured rapist left in the road for them.  It has a near-monochromatic palette appropriate to a landscape which was bleak even before the Nazis’ scorched earth policy.  I’d not be surprised if it founds a franchise.



One thought on “Film review – Sisu (2022)

  1. Although you refer to the film’s “monochrome pallet” , I actually think the photography captures the desolate beauty of Lapland very well. The same director made “Big Game”, which was a more family-friendly action movie and was also highly enjoyable. Both films benefit from distinctive (and unfamiliar) Finnish locations.

    Posted by John Bourn | June 6, 2023, 7:05 pm

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