This new Finnish film from Jalmari Helander almost seems like a short film stretched out to nature length that calls many violent films from the mid 80’s. This time set in 1944 Lapland.
SISU (fully subtitled) immediately immerses the viewer in the solitary existence of prospector Aatami, filled with laconic determination by a grizzled Jorma Tommila. Especially sans dialogue in the opening reel.
The threadbare narrative from Helander considers the length Aatami will go to rightfully reclaim his hard-earned loot of gold from the pilfering Nazi. An early confrontation has a lurid, visceral cogency about it as Aatami isn’t your ordinary former militia server who appears to have some of the attributes of a John Rambo or the instincts of Liam Neeson from Taken.
Before Sisu reaches a gratifying, if excessive highpoint it strains to a degree to gain attention in an unintentional uneven, meandering way. That being said, it’s hard not to rally behind the iron-willed Aatami with Tommila effectively keyed into the deadly dynamics at play whether by landmine, firearms or even a tire. Aksel Hennie appears as the wicked, harried SS Commander Helldorf on the antagonist sideband Helander shows some aplomb in utilizing a perilous distaff situation.
In the end, the filmmaking is fine tuned into making the sun actually exceed its disparate interludes in playing to the rafters. Like in the Pacific Northwest over four decades ago with a distraught, deserted Vietnam veteran, it’s not nice to mess with a hard-working, proud Finn.