Sisu, according to the opening title card of its cinematic namesake, is an untranslatable Finnish word (at least in the direct sense) meaning immeasurable amounts of strength, will, determination and perseverance to overcome unfavourable odds. What follows this textual prologue is a borderline historical fantasy à la Quentin Tarantino, which manifests this Finnish expression with cartoonishly enjoyable splatter.
Sisu takes place in late 1944, and Finnish and Nazi German forces are brawling in the aftermath of a Soviet victory in the Continuation War. In response to being ordered out of the country, Nazi forces deploy a “scorched earth” tactic that decimates swathes of Finland’s northernmost region of Lapland. Surviving the barren wasteland of Lapland is Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), a gold scavenger and ex-commando whose fierce reputation for clinically effective violence precedes him. When a platoon of German soldiers intercepts him and attempts to steal his gold, Korpi has different ideas about how events will unfold, leading to a manhunt across Lapland, which sees our protagonist chased across the wilderness by Nazis, armed with nothing but his dog and his titular Sisu.
So, what Sisu offers is a melting pot of ideas drawn from other pulp and revenge narratives; Korpi himself is something of an amalgamation of John Wick, Lt Aldo Raine, Hugh Glass, and, by the director’s own admission, John J Rambo. It’s a reshuffling of these themes and aesthetics that, broadly speaking, works very effectively. The violence is glorious, the wounds explicit, and the “hell yeah” of the whole thing ramped up to 11. The film’s stumbling block is its staggered pacing, lacking the evenly crescendoing momentum of John Wick 4, leaving a feeling of the film being stuck in third gear.
Sisu is pretty much the sum of its parts, which is no bad thing by any stretch, especially when those parts include beautiful Nordic landscapes and a feared, mute, elderly commando dishing out ludicrously entertaining violence.
Sisu is released nationwide on 26th May 2023.
Watch the trailer for Sisu here: