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TIFF ’22 Review: ‘Sisu’ is a bloody good romp through the country

‘Sisu’ features a one-man army shooting and cutting his way through Nazi soldiers

A scene from 'Sisu'
A scene from 'Sisu' courtesy of TIFF
A scene from 'Sisu' courtesy of TIFF

‘Sisu’ features a one-man army shooting and cutting his way through Nazi soldiers who make the mistake of trying to take his treasure.

Some of the best action movies are centred on legends — someone who kills so efficiently, the mere mention of their name strikes fear in their enemies. Whether they’re military experts, trained assassins or blood-thirsty criminals, they leave a pile of bodies in their wake, fuelling the rumours that crossing their path results in certain death. These pictures are generally high-impact and can be very gory as the protagonist slays their way to whatever their end goal may be. In Sisu, a lethal Finn fends off fleeing Nazis who couldn’t leave well enough alone.

A prospector (Jorma Tommila) lives in a remote area removed from the war being waged across much of Europe. When he suddenly strikes a large vein of gold, he prepares to return to civilization with his riches in tow. During his journey, he crosses paths with a retreating Nazi regiment, led by a loathsome SS officer (Aksel Hennie) who decides the nuggets are their ticket to a new life after the war. Unfortunately for them, he’s no ordinary prospector — he’s a Finnish legend, credited with the deaths of hundreds of Russian soldiers during the Winter War and considered immortal by his enemies. What they thought would be a simple robbery turns into a bloody war worse than the one they just left.

This is about a one-man army in the same vein as John Rambo, Bryan Mills or John Wick. The carnage is a grisly spectacle as soldiers are dispatched by guns, knives, landmines, tires and whatever else he can get his hands on. The fighting is waged on land, and in the water and air, leaving no possibility unexplored. He is the epitome of a Finnish term with no translation: “Sisu,” a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination in the face of overwhelming odds.

The action-packed film is a definite crowd-pleaser, but not for the squeamish. One can never guess what the prospector will do to his opponents — or even himself — as his quest for survival has no limits. He is clever, stealthy and resilient, never even considering running away or giving up. The odds are always stacked against him, but he finds a way to prevail in a manner that is often shocking and entertaining. The movie has a comic book sense of violence, while also sporting the Finn’s dark sense of humour. It’s an exciting watch, particularly when the mouse becomes the cat and the Nazis have no idea what’s coming for them. It’s also liberating to see a group of female hostages given an opportunity for revenge.

Sisu had its world premiere in the Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Read other reviews from the festival.

Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie and Mimosa Willamo

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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