A bag of gold, a platoon of German soldiers, and 500 miles to the nearest bank. A lone prospector just struck it rich with a lucky dig in the remote plains of a war-torn Finland. His luck gets tested when he encounters a caravan of Nazi soldiers, who have orders to terrorize the area. Find a bag filled with gold, the soldiers have their eyes on taking the prospector’s prize. However, they have no idea they have just waged war on a legendary veteran commando. Now this one-man death squad will show the Nazi invaders unimaginable determination in Sisu.
Set in 1944, the Lapland War between Finland and Nazi Germany is underway. Finland had made a pact with the Allied Forces to drive German troops out of Finnish territory. Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) has given everything in the war and has retired from the fight. Isolated but at peace, he spends his days looking prospecting the wilderness of Lapland. That all comes to a halt when Korpi encounters a Wehrmacht platoon and the SS officer Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie). Looking to fill his pockets with gold, Helldorf orders his soldiers to hunt down Korpi. The Germans fire their guns, lay out traps, and unleash a tank against Korpi, but he manages to survive. One of the German captives, Aino (Mimosa Willamo) recognizes the fearless prospector to be embodying “sisu”, a Finnish word that roughly translates to the strength of will in the face of adversity. As Korpi picks off the platoon, even Helldorf’s most loyal soldier Wolf (Jack Doolan) begins to question their decision to steal Korpi’s gold, and if they will live to spend their riches.
Sisu is an explosive take on Westerns and World War 2 movies. Jorma Tommila plays grizzled Aatami Korpi, whose battle-hardened history as a commando is marvelously expressed with intense gazes. While he doesn’t fit the typical WW2 caricature, Tommila’s performance easily conveys a thousand-yard stare that you don’t want to be at the receiving end. Like an aged cowboy taking on cocky bandits, Korpi seizes up his opponents and every action is a cold and calculator move. Aksel Hennie serves as the main antagonist Bruno Helldorf, who strikes a certain fear in his own soldiers. Hennie gives a fine performance as the SS officer, who barks commands and deals with the pitfalls of Korpi’s retaliation. But Korpi is shown to be vulnerable to Helldorf’s efforts. Korpi gets injured a few times, receiving a few wounds that under conditions would normally kill a person. Nevertheless, Korpi’s burning desire to reclaim his gold shocks and anger Helldorf through their encounters. Getting her own focus at times, Mimosa Willamo’s Aino starts out as a captive bystander who finds hope for her survival as Korpi demoralizes her captors. Willamo’s is a good complementary character, who serves to outline Korpi’s motivation and why the Nazis should fear him.
Writer and director Jalmari Helander finds a good mix of drama, comedy, and realism to tell Sisu. The pacing can be slow for great stoic establishing shots, then gets throttled with intense action. Each set piece feels different, with escalating tension of Korpi facing some crazy situation. The fight goes from land, sea, and air to showcase the Nazi’s struggle to kill Korpi. Nameless soldiers get taken out by Korpi in bloodstained fights. The combats scenes are tight and frantic, which reflects Korpi as a fierce brawler that will use any means to defeat his foes.
This Finnish movie is a great homage to classic action movies that shows that any hero, regardless of look or age can kick serious ass. Sisu is aware of its premise and sticks to elements that maximize its enjoyment. Sisu is thrilling to watch and should not be missed out! Sisu hits theaters this April 28th. You can enter the Sisu website to play a fun Minesweeper game to win prizes in the meantime.
Bitten by a radioactive video store rental employee and overcome by Pac-Man fever, Chris seeks new comic books, games, and movies to review.