Sisu movie review (2022)
Unbreakable Determination and a Quest for Gold
In the war-ravaged Finnish landscape of 1944, the extravagant exploitation war film “Sisu” unfolds amidst the ruins. The protagonist, Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), a grizzled and bearded prospector, epitomizes the untranslatable concept of “sisu” – an unbreakable determination that defies death itself. Clad in a simple woolen shirt and suspenders, Korpi immerses himself in his gold panning routine at a quaint stream. As the sounds of gunfire and explosions draw nearer, he unearths a small nugget, setting off a chain of events that will test his resolve.
A Clash of Fortunes and Ideologies
Korpi’s fortune takes a treacherous turn when he encounters a group of sullen Nazis transporting a cadre of captive Finnish women, whom they consider mere “treasure.” Despite his efforts to conceal his newfound wealth, the soldiers discover his secret, leading to a violent struggle for the valuable spoils. Writer/director Jalmari Helander‘s “Sisu” pays homage to exploitation cinema, spaghetti Westerns, and 1980s action films, drawing inspiration from Sergio Leone’s works and the iconic character of Rambo. Aksel Hennie delivers a chilling performance as the savage Nazi commander, Bruno, who sees the gold as his ticket to evade future punishment for war crimes.
Subverting Historical Expectations
Conventional portrayals of prospectors often evoke the themes of colonization and land theft, where vital resources are extracted from territories belonging to indigenous populations. Helander, however, subtly subverts these historical expectations in “Sisu.” The desolate Finnish landscape, captured masterfully by cinematographer Kjell Lagerroos, serves as a poignant backdrop, with its ravaged villages and shattered infrastructure. As Korpi digs for gold, reminiscent of craters left by bombs, his actions can be interpreted as a defense of one of Finland’s remaining resources against the Nazi colonizers.
Heroic Determination and Symbolic Women
The loss of his gold transforms Korpi into a near-mythical figure, armed with unwavering determination. His extraordinary feats include navigating minefields, surviving a hanging, and employing underwater stealth to thwart his enemies. Simultaneously, the film intertwines the plight of the Finnish women held captive by the Nazis. Their struggle for freedom parallels the quest for the stolen gold, emphasizing the imperialistic nature of the Nazis’ actions. Though limited in dialogue, actresses like Mimosa Willamo bring depth to their roles, becoming symbols of resilience and resistance.
A Blend of Nationalism and Thrilling Entertainment
While “Sisu” delves into deeper themes, it remains outrageously entertaining, embracing elements of nonsensical action, inventive kills, and engaging dialogue reminiscent of classic Hollywood films. The narrative’s chapter titles, such as “Minefield” and “The Legend,” along with the brooding score, mirror Korpi’s unwavering will and drive. By not overexplaining every plot point and injecting self-awareness, the film finds a balance between riveting storytelling and lighthearted self-mockery. “Sisu” takes audiences on a thrilling ride, blending nationalistic undertones with a captivating and enjoyable cinematic experience.
Sisu” is a cinematic gem that combines nationalistic undertones, gritty action, and a touch of self-awareness. It challenges historical expectations while immersing viewers in a war-torn landscape, guided by a protagonist fueled by unbreakable determination. As the film piles bodies as high as a Rambo death count, it invites audiences to contemplate the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
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