So, I recently stumbled upon a gem of a movie called Sisu. I went in with zero expectations, no knowledge of the plot or the actors, and, to be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the right theater. But boy, was I in for a treat!
The film is set in Northern Finland during the final days of World War II. It follows the story of a solitary prospector who crosses paths with Nazis on a scorched Earth retreat. When they steal his gold, they quickly discover that they have just tangled with no ordinary minor.
The legend of Sisu in Finland is that of a man who might be immortal, who’s hard to kill, and who’s kind of like Batman. Everyone’s terrified of him, and those who don’t know who he is are looked upon with pity. The story of his endless perseverance and his inability to give up has spread throughout Finland.
Now, imagine this guy going up against the Nazis near the end of World War II. The Nazis have captured some people from Finland, and these people know about the legend of Sisu. They can spread the story to the other Nazis, scaring them while also informing us. The coolest thing about this guy is that he doesn’t say anything. He just walks around trying to get his gold to a place while killing a bunch of Nazis. It’s incredibly satisfying and very gory, and he does so in consistently interesting and fun ways.
The types of sequences where you kind of just want to leap out of your seat with excitement because you just saw something crazy. If you’re like me and you like this kind of stuff, this guy is like if the 1980s was a decade mated with the movie R-rated. This guy consistently kills people in extremely fun ways, to the point where it does push the bounds of credibility and realism even more so than the recent John Wick movie.
There’s a scene in John Wick 4 where he falls like I don’t know how many stories, smashes against a vehicle, and then lands on the street and gets up. I remember being like, “Okay, I love that movie, but still.” This film takes that time a hundred. The things that this guy survives are hilarious, but that’s kind of the point.
The idea behind his legend is that the word “sisu,” which cannot be translated, essentially means white-knuckled grit and determination. The idea that you just won’t give up. They don’t say he’s immortal; it’s just that he won’t give up, and so he’s always going to win.
Now, the world that he lives in is a little different from the world of John Wick. You kind of have to operate within some boundaries here since this film took place in 1944. But there are a lot of prequel possibilities.
The film definitely adopts a 1970s sort of exploitation vibe. It’s broken up into chapters, and a lot of people will probably leave the theater talking about Quentin Tarantino. But the film has its own style and its own appeal. There are some very suspenseful sequences as well, involving a minefield, which is one of my favorite scenes in the film if not my favorite.
But what impressed me the most about Sisu is the commitment to the material being as sparse as it is. This person doesn’t really talk, and you don’t know that much about him. You just hear stories, and some of them might be true, and some of them might not be.
I imagine that in the screenplay stage, there was probably a temptation to flesh this guy out a little bit more, maybe have some revenge elements going on, like what if everything that’s being suggested to you, but that’s also part of the fun. You’re kind of making up your own stories and myths about this character in your head as you watch him just wreak havoc on these Nazis. The film is also visually stunning, with gorgeous shots of the Finnish landscape, especially during the night scenes where everything is shrouded in a dark blue hue. The action sequences are incredibly well-choreographed, and the violence is so over-the-top that it becomes almost cartoonish, in a good way.
The main actor who plays the protagonist is excellent in the role, conveying a sense of stoic determination and badassery without ever speaking a word. It’s a difficult role to pull off, and he does it with ease. The supporting cast is also solid, with the Nazi characters being appropriately villainous and menacing.
Overall, I highly recommend Sisu to anyone who loves action movies or just wants to see something different and exciting. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish, with a unique premise and a charismatic protagonist. The director clearly knows what he’s doing, and I’m excited to see what he does next. So if you’re in the mood for some Finnish folk tales, Nazis, and gratuitous violence, this is the movie for you. Just make sure to buckle up and hold on tight.