In this climate of darkness and despair, one movie could punch through all of that and then have some more room to go through to the light. It might take a bit of style from Quentin Tarantino, John Wick, John Carpenter, and some other action movies of recent memory, but that all coalesce into the masterstroke that is Sisu.
Before you keep reading, just take a look at the trailer.
Sisu is an untranslateable word from Finnish that roughly means stoic determination, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness. If there’s anything that Sisu will give you after watching it, it’s hope. Now for those people out there that might get their feathers ruffled from a group of Nazis getting decimated and mutilated in increasingly awesome ways, sorry. This isn’t the movie for you. If you don’t find joy in a landmine getting tossed at a Nazi’s head, I don’t know what to say to you.
That’s because Sisu takes the Blues Brothers approach to Nazis. “Illinois Nazis? I hate Illinois Nazis”.
A Hero That Feels Like A Slasher Villain
Our hero, Aatami Korpi, in Sisu is played masterfully by Jorma Tommila. He doesn’t talk much, and he’s not a pretty protagonist in the traditional action vein, but that all adds to the charm and everyman feel. Tommila brings with him some excellent action chops and absolutely brutal kills in this movie. He’s joined by Aksel Hennie as the SS Commander, Jack Doolan as Wolf, a tank operator, Mimosa Willamo as Aino, a leader of captured women, and various others playing Nazis that run into the meat grinder.
The story of Sisu loosely follows the last days of World War II, and the Nazi army is in shambles retreating through Finland. That runs parallel to a prospector finding an absolutely mind-blowing amount of gold. Well, who would have guessed that he’d run across the path of these Nazis, who steal his gold.
Except, the Nazis, when asking their superiors about the Miner, learn that he’s one of the most deadly and brutal men in the history of Finland. They end up facing the wrath of a one-man death squad who will go to any length to get his gold back.
It’s told from an episodic structure with chapters and titles like “Kill ‘Em All”. That structure doesn’t really add much, but it’s incredibly satisfying to see a quick cut from a group of captives being rescued to the words “Kill ‘Em All” on screen.
Sweeping Landscapes Mixed With Bodyparts
Sisu captivates with a tale as old as time, the ultimate good vs. the ultimate evil. It then combines that ultimate evil with greed, cowardice, and abuse. So not only do you get Nazis. You get Nazis that take women as prisoners and ones that try to weasel their way out of getting prosecuted by stealing gold. This is a celebration of Finnish culture, Finnish resolve, and a tale that always seems to show up on the battlefield. Sisu is a celebration of hope against all odds.
Jalmari Helander writes and directs here with plenty of comedy mixed in with the bloodshed. Like I said before, if Nazis dying in increasingly cartoonish ways isn’t funny, then you might not enjoy this movie. For all the heroics of Korpi in the film, you’d need excellent villains. Aksel Hennie and Jack Doolan dial up the evil in this. It’s a world-weary evil that knows they’re losing. Which makes them even more dangerous. There’s nothing more evil than someone who knows they’re a scumbag and then tries to buy their way out of their comeuppance.
Hennie plays a great villain because he’s almost charming as the SS Commander. However, he never makes you feel for him as a villain. It’s a perfect performance to go with Tommila.
Hope Above All Else
There are parts of Sisu that feel overly cartoonish in their execution. Some might complain that our hero goes through way too much punishment to survive. Those sorts of criticisms feel small in the grand scheme of the film. Sisu and its protagonist are a personification of Finland reclaiming what was lost from the Nazi occupation during the war. If that means booting out and killing every last soldier in the country, then so be it.
If there’s one thing that you’ll feel after stepping out of the gonzo-action of Sisu; it’s the hope that we can defeat all kinds of evil out there. Through combining modern action with a lense of spaghetti western, Sisu crafts one of the most enjoyable and crowd-pleasing movies of the year.
Check out Sisu in theaters on Friday, April 28th, 2023.
For more Reviews, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.