Sisu Synopsis: During the last days of World War II, a solitary prospector crosses paths with Nazis on a scorched-Earth retreat in northern Finland. When the soldiers decide to steal his gold, they quickly discover they just tangled with no ordinary miner.
A muted prospector unleashes his fury upon a callous barrage of Nazi soldiers in Sisu. Riding a tidal wave of positive momentum following its festival run, Sisu is the type of indie breakout I love to see connecting with the masses. As for if the film actually warrants its hype, that answer is a little more complicated.
Don’t get me wrong; Sisu is a sturdy retrograde action offering. Writer/Director Jalmari Helander, synonymous with his work on spirited B-movie romps like Big Game and Rare Exports, displays a poised command of the genre. There are seldom few words uttered and a lack of grander thematic pretenses, but Helander consistently compensates through his relentless onslaught of lively action setpieces. Countless hard-hitting brawls and bullet-ridden clashes paint the screen with blood as Helander pushes his limited budgetary resources to their absolute apex. The use of practical effects feels particularly inspiring. Chucks of flesh and tactile vehicles explode on screen with more impact than most of the film’s big-budget counterparts.
I appreciate the ingenuity the writer/director showcases throughout, always finding clever avenues for further dialing up the bombastic mayhem. His instincts behind the camera are also refreshing. There is a certain simplicity in the film’s straightforward storytelling approach that fits its insular protagonist like a glove. Star Jorma Tommila works well in these confines, allowing his swaggering presence to carry the material on his shoulder.
Other aspects of Sisu leave something to be desired. Helander’s approach to violence in Sisu indulges too much in modern action movie tendencies. His shaky cam flourishes and frequent jump cuts only work to muddy up the inventive stunt work onscreen. Additionally, I can’t help feeling that the concept did not realize its full potential. The film’s embrace of barebone storytelling essentials works in telling an efficient action film, but it does little to acknowledge the intriguing subtext of its World War 2 setting.
I still found myself charmed by Sisu. It’s a no-nonsense bloodbath crafted with love and understanding of age-old action movie tenets.
Sisu is now playing in theaters.