S I S U
strength of will, determination, perseverance
Sisu is a unique Finnish concept. It is a Finnish term that can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. It is a word that cannot be fully translated.
I hope the director knew what he was doing when he made Sisu. I hope he knew of the comparisons this movie would draw. I have to assume he did because anyone who’s seen a movie in the last thirty years will make the same connections I have. Sisu is, among other things, an homage to the works of Tarantino, to grindhouse in general and Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” of Italian Spaghetti Westerns. I guess I’m wondering if it was all on purpose. The similarities are too many to ignore.
I like a movie that makes me think. A movie that makes me question things I thought I already knew. That said, I also love movies that are straightforward and as unambiguous as they come. Sisu is that kind of movie. Take a torn, ripped apart human being and place him in a setting he does not want to be. Now put between that man and his destination a unit of soulless nazis who try to stop him. Unleash hell.
Sisu is a story about the tail end of WWII. As it becomes more and more clear that the Germans are losing the war, the Nazis take on a scorched earth approach to their migrations through Finland. Their orders? To destroy anything and everything they leave in their wake. Buildings, people, equipment of any kind, bridges and roads are to be left in ruin and flame. On the outskirts of these battles, in an unremarkable field is a man, alone and avoiding the hell that once ruined his entire life. In this random field he digs and pans the river for gold. His horse waits by loyally as does his sheep dog that looks more sheep than dog.
He is dirty and tired. Still he pans and digs because at least it’s better than losing his life to a brutal, aimless war he doesn’t understand. After an undisclosed amount of time and effort he finds a single, nominal sized nugget lying in the sludge at the bottom of the river. He is suddenly rejuvenated and his efforts double as he digs hole after hole searching for the motherload. Before long, just beneath the brown soft earth he quite literally strikes gold. Pounds of it just gleaming and beckoning anyone that lays eyes on it. He is done with what he believes is the hard part, finding it. Now he must transfer his new found wealth to the nearest city to convert the gold into cold, hard cash. Unfortunately for this man, the Nazis have left behind nothing but devastation. So the closest city still functioning is now hundreds of miles away and standing between him and a dream worthy payday is a unit of hateful SS. Let Sisu begin.
Even the man with no name did in fact have a name. In the case of this lone killing machine, he goes simply by Aatami. From the Hebrew meaning “earth” and generic term for “man.” It is the name of the first man created by God in the Bible. Basically this is a man of the earth because as far as anyone knows, he literally stems from the earth. He is seemingly without limits. He can be wounded and beaten to within an inch of his life. Make no mistake, he is just a man. But as they beg the question, “Is he immortal like the legend says?” anyone that has witnessed him simply replies that he is not immortal but rather he simply refuses to die.
Jorma Tommila plays this Aatami, nameless man. He is determined and grizzled. His story is told in the wounds of old that riddle his entire body. Resembling more Frankenstein’s monster than human being he knows the harsh realities of war and the loss it leaves behind. He is fed up with war but any man that mistakes his distaste for battle with weakness will learn the hard way what he is truly capable of doing, and surviving. Tommila plays this walking death instrument perfectly. He conveys his anger in the long stares, gritted teeth and fists held tight and ready to strike with fury.
Sisu is ridiculous and fully embraces that fact. It revels in it. If the story was muddy, sludgy shit Sisu would be the pig rolling around in it. It’s exorbitantly violent and brimming with brilliant nazi death scenes that really celebrate the demise of such a villainous, evil entity. Yay for nazi scum getting their just desserts! With a god damn cherry on top.
Rated R For: strong bloody violence, gore and language
Runtime: 91 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, War
Starring: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo
Directed By: Jalmari Helander
Out of 10
Story: 8/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 9
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below: