Review by Jonathan Berk
Writer and Director Jalmari Helander's new film Sisu is an explosive 90-minute action movie with a simple, yet effective narrative. Set in Finland towards the end of World War II, the film follows Aatami Korpi (played by Jorma Tommila) as he searches for gold. He finds a speck of gold that leads to a big discovery. Everything initially seems to be going well for this man, who appears haunted by a lost love — signified by the constant touching of a gold wedding band — as he starts off with his loot. Still, trouble has a way to find those with fortune as he passes by a unit of Nazi soldiers on their way out of the country.
The Nazi soldiers are led by Bruno Helldorf (played by Abel Hennie) who sees the end of the war and decides to start making plans to save his own skin. The gold that Aatami possesses is Bruno’s potential ticket to life after the war, instantly pitting the Nazis against Aatami. How could one man possibly fight off a tank and dozens of armed soldiers? Well, he is no ordinary man.
Sometimes, the action in this film is intense; bloody and visceral in cinematic compelling ways. The trailer shows a sequence in a minefield that is hard to ignore. It’s both inventive and explosive in its presentation and building of the legend that is Aatami. He survives what seems impossible odds in ways that feel impossible, yet somehow still practical. The film in general walks the line between reality and fantasy, all at the service of the myth being constructed.
In fact, it is the writing of the story that sets this movie apart. While there are some areas that get short shrift — probably to hit the short runtime many of us love — it's the building up of the film’s protagonist that is truly compelling. The backstory of Aatami will not be spoiled here, but it is this component of the film that makes it stick. As we witness things that seem improbable, we also slowly learn about who the man is, and a myth is constructed. John Wick got credit for its world building and the construction of the legend that is the Baba Yaga, and it seems Aatami has a bit of that as well.
Like many action movies, Sisu doesn't have anything enlightening to say. Nazis are bad. War is bad. A man will go to great lengths to take back what is his or to make those pay he took from him. Yet, Sisu is a compelling watch for any fan of the genre.
Sisu will be in theaters on April 28.
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