Sisu is not a standard movie but a triumph of a style-over-substance approach to filmmaking. Just recently I rewatched Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, featuring a similar visual style but also some semblance of a story. The first thing you need to know about Sisu, a Finnish action movie set during WWII is that it’s not even trying to be plausible or believable. You’ll need to not only suspend your belief but forget that you even exist as a construct. We will be following Korpi, an ex-soldier who now lives as a gold prospector in the Finnish wilderness. There, he will run into a Nazi unit led by a ruthless commander hellbent on killing him. However, Korpi is one tough son of a bitch.
Featuring gloriously graphic violence, excellent visuals, and a cool atmosphere, Sisu is a breath of fresh air in the action movie genre. Additionally, almost all of the dialogue is in English so you don’t have to worry about subtitles or anything. And there’s not much of it with our lead character uttering only one sentence during the final scene. I have to admit that I didn’t like Jalmari Helander’s previous movies Rare Exports and Big Game. However, I do like this one, despite all its flaws. After all, if you’re going to make a movie about killing someone, it might as well be Nazis. At least they’re not on the Moon like in Timo Vuerensola’s Iron Sky.
We’ve also got a Norwegian horror comedy, Dead Snow featuring Nazi Zombies and offering a different kind of a fight. And while that movie was taking place in the snowy Norwegian mountains, in this one we will be visiting Lapland. Yes, that’s the same place that Santa Claus lives although at this point he’s probably a misogynistic racist living off-grid and running a small YouTube channel. And I’m not saying that because Korpi looks a bit like Varg Vikernes. Nonetheless, Lapland is a magical place and I just loved those wide shots showing us that beauty. The ground is covered with something that’s neither grass nor moss.
Now, that mystical landscape helps a lot with the atmosphere. When Korpi is not stabbing, shooting, or blowing up Nazis, the pacing slows down to a crawl. Sisu feels more like a music video at that point than a movie. It also borrows a lot of elements from Western movies, in particular, Tarantino’s Django. And if we’re talking about WWII, Inglourious Basterds. Recently we’ve seen this new style of modern Western emerge through the great success of the television show The Mandalorian. Sisu even borrows the chaptered structure in an effort to appear structured at all.
Jorma Tommila was fucking brilliant as Korpi. 63 years old and sporting a gray beard, he looks exactly like the tough motherfucker you don’t want to fuck with. What does that meme graph say, fuck around and find out? Opposite of him, we have Aksel Hennie (The Trip, Hawaii, Oslo) as the vicious Nazi commander Bruno. He was also quite good along with the rest of the cast. Working on a budget of measly six million Euros, the production team did wonders. The cinematography was stellar and the special effects were believable and juicy. The minefield chapter was particularly gruesome featuring also excellent practical effects.
As you can see, I’ve skipped the summary section as there’s really not much to talk about here in terms of the story. Sisu is one long and simmering fight between a whole Nazi squad and our homeboy Korpi. Jalmari Helander says that he drew inspiration from First Blood (Rambo) and a real Finnish soldier in WWII Simo Hayha. It’s funny to think that Finland was in conflict with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during WWII.
Director: Jalmari Helander
Writers: Jalmari Helander
Cast: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila, Tatu Sinisalo
Fun Facts: Jalmari Helander was slated to direct a science fiction comedy in Canada but because of the pandemic the whole project was put on pause. This is why he decides to go back to Finland and use the time to make Sisu.