07th Sep2023

‘Sisu’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila | Written and Directed by Jalmari Helander

Finnish writer-director Jalmari Helander (Rare Exports, Big Game) returns with an outrageously violent and deliriously entertaining WWII action movie that’s an absolute must-see if you’re a fan of exploding Nazis. An inspired mash-up of Inglourious Basterds, Road Runner cartoons and Liam Neeson vengeful-old-man thrillers, it’s a wild ride from beginning to end.

Sisu opens with a caption that explains the title as an untranslateable Finnish word for “a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination … [manifested] when all hope is lost.” A further caption then sets the scene – it’s 1944 and the defeated Nazis are retreating from Finland, but not without destroying everything in their path.

We’re then introduced to grizzled prospector Aatami (Jorma Tommila), described by a voiceover as “one man who has decided to leave the war behind him, for good.” Accompanied by his faithful horse and a cute dog, Aatami has an unbelievable stroke of luck when he uncovers a huge seam of gold in the Finnish wastelands, scooping as much of it up in his saddle bags as he can.

Loaded down with his bounty, Aatami encounters a smattering of Nazis on the road home, lead by smirking Bruno (Aksel Hennie) and his second-in-command Wolf (Jack Doolan). Dismissing him as harmless, the Nazis let him go, but they quickly realise they’ve underestimated him when he encounters more Nazis further along the road and slaughters them all with extreme violence when they try to take his gold.

The rest of Sisu unfolds in a similar manner, with Bruno and his platoon determined to get their hands on the old man’s loot, and Aatami despatching Nazis left, right and centre, in crowd-pleasing fashion. He also lives up to his apparent reputation as “The Immortal”, as related by a female prisoner (Mimosa Willamo), by just flat-out refusing to die, either by coincidence or sheer bloody-mindedness.

Helander’s direction is assured throughout. Each action sequence is a perfectly timed masterpiece, delivering shock, awe and gore in equal measure. It’s also frequently inventive – highlights include Aatami finding an alternate way to deploy a landmine, and coming up with a bloody, but effective way to stay underwater.

There’s also a pleasing sense of escalation to the action, as the story is broken into ten short chapters with headings (in a familiar-looking font) like “Landmine” and “Kill ‘Em All”. Accordingly, Aatami moves from one-on-one combat to taking on first a tank and then a plane. It’s almost absurdly cartoonish – hence the Road Runner comparison – but by the time he boards the plane in unconventional fashion, you’ll long since have learned to just accept the impossible and go along with it, complete with an ear-to-ear grin on your face.

Tommila’s delightfully taciturn performance is the icing on an already delicious cake – indeed, he only speaks one line in the entire film, though his perpetually weathered face speaks volumes. The Nazis, by contrast, are a slightly more garrulous lot, and Hennie is good value as their greedy leader, who constantly under-estimates his adversary.

In short, Sisu is a thoroughly entertaining Nazi-bashing splatterfest, that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. It also confirms Helander as a serious genre talent and if there’s any justice, Hollywood will throw a big budget at him and tell him to make whatever the hell he wants in the very near future.

Special Features:

  • Indestructible: Making Sisu
  • Pushing the Boundaries of Reality: The Visual Effects of Sisu

**** 4/5

Sisu is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. Check out our review of the film’s VOD/Digital release here.


Comments are closed.