In Review: Sisu

Review by Tim Robins

Sisu (2022)


Not all superheroes wear capes.The award-winning Sisu (2022), follows a gold prospector (Jorma Tommila) who must defend his hoard of gold from a column of Nazis retreating from Finland. Writer and director Jalmarie Helander counts First Blood (1982) and a legendary Finnish sniper as his inspiration, but the film is best described as a cross between an Indiana Jones movie crossed with John Wick, without their spectacular budgets – but with Monty Python-esque levels of gore.

Helander was also the writer and director of Rare Exports (2010), which arguably kick-started the ‘Krampus’ craze, even if its titular Santa was the so-called “Jollupukki” of Finnish folkelore.

Sisu (2022)

Sisu’s historical location is the Lapland War of 1944, after Finland agreed an armistice with the Soviet Union that required the Nazis to be driven out of Finland. (Like Sweden, Finland had allowed Nazi troops free passage across its borders). The retreating army left a trail of destruction across Lapland in the north of the country.

The film catches up with a Nazi platoon who, after discovering a prospector is carrying a horde of gold, make the mistake of challenging him. Soon, they come to reason he may be Aatami Korpi, the legendary “immortal”, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Russian troops and a “one man death squad”.

Sisu (2022)
Sisu (2022)

We are told the word Sisu is untranslatable in English, although the film tells us that it refers to a “white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination.” Er… thanks for the translation. Of all those possessing Sisu, our hero is surely the Sisu-est. The fact that he saves a truck full of captured and raped Finnish women along the way to cashing in his horde is incidental to his goal.

Nothing prepares the Nazis for Sisu in action. The prospector ducks bullets, hurls land mines – and even sets himself alight to ward off attack dogs.

What surprised me about Sisu was its “humour”, for want of a better word. Indeed, I was surprised how funny all this was. I was chuckling from the start, particularly when the Korpi’s isolation was broken by a fleet of bombers flying into the distance. The set up is that of a joke, even if there’s no laughing about the shelling Korpi glimpses over the horizon.

Sisu (2022)

The gore in the film is extravagant, but not really horrific. And, let’s face it, no one is going to balk at bloodily dispatching Nazis.

It helps that the characters are cast to type. You’re not likely to mistake them as anything other than the creations of cinema. Jorma Tommila is suitably grizzled, and war weathered. He is a character familiar from the protagonists of the Rambo and Die Hard movies. Aksel Hennie is the ruthless Obersturmführer Bruno Helldorf and is supported by Jack Doolan as Wolf, so character names to conjure with.

I did question the film’s implied rape scenes. These are bleaker than the film needs to be, even if the women get their revenge, Tarantino style. Some are not so lucky. I guess these moments are there to justify the violence against their captors and flesh out the plot, but dark humour can get too dark.

Sisu (2022)

One of Sisu’s triumphs is the evocation of Lapland. The music of Juri Seppä (Big Game, Rare Exports) and Tuomas Wäinölä (Class Reunion 3, Nymphs) evokes the ancient force of the landscape, while giving the German intruders a thundering Heavy Metal theme. It’s a welcome change not to have a film promoting actual pop music.

Then there’s the cinematography of Kjell Lagerroos, who captures the bleakness and beauty of Lapland’s rocky, mossy landscape. The film was shot around the picturesque, 200 person village of Nuorgam, the Northernmost point in Finland and the European Union. By the end of the film, I certainly knew where I wanted to spend my next holiday!

Tim Robins

Sisu is in cinemas around the UK now

Sisu (2022)


Lapland: Above Ordinary – Sisu – Helander returns to film Lapland action

Director Jalmari Helander returned to Lapland in autumn 2021 to film his upcoming action thriller, Sisu. Read an interview with him about making the film

Catalan News: Finnish ‘Sisu’ movie leads Festival de Sitges’ awards winning four trophies

Sisu made a surprise appearance at the 55th Festival de Sitges last year, when winning four of its awards on Saturday midday. The film was recognised as Best Film, Best Male Actor for Jorma Tommila, Best Photography, and Best Soundtrack

Categories: Features, Film, Other Worlds, Reviews

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