It arrived with little-to-no fanfare. Marketing, at least in the UK, was minimal and my screening was as close to empty as I’ve seen in a while. Somehow though, none of that seemed to matter. In an age where bums on seats and box office numbers are seen by studios as the be-all-and-end-all of the theatrical experience, it’s refreshing to see a film that doesn’t concern itself with all that nonsense and simply aims to do one thing. Entertain. And in that respect, SISU achieves and exceeds its objective.
Led by young Finnish director Jalmari Helander, SISU focuses on former military Commander Almaari (Jorma Tommila), known to his enemies as The Immortal. His enemies in this case being a group of wonderfully detestable Nazis. With the Germans all but defeated, Almaari leaves his life of violence behind and ventures off in search of gold. Helander utilises the vast plains of Finland beautifully, depicting Almaari’s solitude and using it as a stage for a generous helping of action sequences, all while managing the extremely modest budget of only 6-Million Euros. Perhaps Tommila was paid by the line because our lead character doesn’t utter a word until the final scene. Counterintuitively though, this approach really works and not only functions to build a palpable air of mystery around him, but allows the audience to buy into the mythical nature of the character just as the Nazis do. Though some details of his past are filled in throughout the welcome 131-minute run time, he remains enigmatically formidable.
As limited as the narrative is for our protagonist, any story or character work is thrown out of the window when it comes to SS Commander Bruno (Aksel Hennie) and his troops as they amble across the Finnish wasteland in their tank, burning and pillaging as they go. But that’s ok. We don’t need it. I think we can all agree that Nazis are just the worst. Their purpose here is to die, in as many creative and inventive ways as possible and for us to enjoy every juicy, blood-soaked kill. That right there is 90% of the film and though certain moments strain credulity (and other moments are just downright ridiculous), SISU is undeniably entertaining. And sometimes, that’s enough.
Ruling: If you put John Wick, Rambo and a whole bunch of Nazis into a blender, you’d get SISU. Enough said right?