|Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila
|July 27, 2023
In the long-running Halloween franchise, the heroes tried every means possible to kill the villainous Michael Myers. He was shot multiple times, blown up, tranquilised, beaten up, hanged, stabbed, electrocuted, hit by a truck, and burned. Every time, he miraculously survived. That same vibe is at play in Sisu, a Finnish action-comedy from writer-director Jalmari Helander (Big Game).
The protagonist here is Aatami (Tommila), a retired soldier who is fossicking for gold in a remote, uninhabited part of Finland. The year is 1944 and this allows Helander to introduce stereotypical bad guys who are easy to dislike – a band of angry Nazis who were defeated in the Lapland War and are now retreating to Germany.
The plot is simple. Aatami finds a huge, live-changing gold deposit which he is trying to transport by horseback back home. He crosses paths with the Nazis enroute who aren’t too keen to let him live – partly because they want the gold for themselves and partly because they seek vengeance against the Finnish people. It evolves into a bloodthirsty piece where dozens of soldiers try to slay Aatami but, despite a growing list of injuries, he seemingly cannot be defeated.
Inspired by Rambo, one of Helander’s favourite movies growing up, Sisu is an unrelenting action film which, like a great Quentin Tarantino flick, blends humour with gore. Yes, it’s subtitled but that shouldn’t deter audiences given how little dialogue there is. In the lead role, star Jorma Tommila barely says a word. He’s a one-man band who keeps to himself and has no need to communicate with others. On encountering the Nazis, his fists and weapons do most of the talking.
I’d have preferred more subplots. It’s only 91 minutes but there’s an element of repetitiveness to the increasingly over-the-top action and the farcical way in which he keeps surviving. You need to lean into the comedy as best you can. Think of it as a Wile E. Coyote v. Road Runner scenario where the outcome is inevitable, but you still admire the determination and creativity shown by both sides.
It’s rare to see an action film emanating from Scandinavia so if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s worth checking out.