Sisu – Review

Release Date – 26th May 2023, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Jalamari Helander

An elite ex-soldier (Jorma Tommila) mining for gold in the Finnish wilderness finds himself taking on a unit of highly-equipped Nazi soldiers.

It’s strange how one small detail that doesn’t overly play into the narrative of a film or entirely the way in which it works can affect the final product so much. In the case of Sisu the simple use of chapter titles creates something of a stop-start nature to the narrative. It points out a repetitive nature to the goings on as Jorma Tommila’s “one man death squad” is chased down by a unit of Nazi soldiers, equipped with tanks, machine guns, bombs and more while all he has is a pickaxe and a dog, he takes some of them down, escapes, moves on and gets ready to do it all over again in another location just down the road.

Yet, while there’s this cyclical feeling to the story, again largely emphasised by the presence of occasional chapter titles, somehow – perhaps slightly thanks in part to the 88-minute run-time – the piece goes by quicker than it might initially seem. It may slow down every now and then at the beginning of a new chapter, however it’s not too long until you’re at what’s clearly the big third act battle. A point which certainly had me thinking ‘I know he’s meant to be immortal, but there are a number of times where he should have died by now’ in regards to Tormilla’s central character.

Action is the biggest draw of the film. The bloody violence is what it sells itself on and certainly there’s plenty to like about what’s on display when it is unfolding. There’s a Tarantino-style quality to much of the action, not just because of the very bloody nature which while bringing a sense of slightly restricting familiarity does provide an engaging style to such moments. Generally this seems to largely be a film to entertain audiences with various instances of Nazis being stabbed, shot, blown up, run over, drowned, etc and it undeniably provides that and does a relatively good job of doing so.

Things move along and are kept fairly tight by the under-90-minute run-time – a big benefit to the film stopping it from looping further or going on too long – and, again, provide enough amusement for the time that it’s on. How much is remembered after viewing remains to be seen, a couple of moments currently linger in the mind when recalling the film about a week after seeing it, but when watching there’s enough to like and be engaged by. It’s a fairly simple premise and set of events which writer-director Jalamari Helander sticks to, and once more the film is held up, and occasionally back, by its simplicity. A small thing such as chapter titles in a film of structural simplicities can create a noticeable impact amongst the rest of the film, pointing out the repetition amongst the amusing action.

While Tarantino-inspired action may provide enough amusement for the duration of the film there’s a repetitive nature to Sisu’s narrative which only drops in the final half hour. Occasionally preventing a consistent flow within the otherwise quick-paced 88-minute run-time.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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