The impact that the John Wick franchise has had on action-cinema is the most substantial thing to happen to the genre since the Jason Bourne franchise introduced the idea of the shaky-cam effect to the genre back in 2002. It will be easy (and maybe even valid) to equate Sisu to that of the John Wick franchise due to its stylish, precise hyper-violence. However, director Jalmari Helander has been doing this sort of thing since 2010’s Rare Exports, which has become a cult-classic of sorts. Sisu is yet another moderately low-budget action film from the filmmaker that feels like it has all the opportunity to become a cult-classic within a few years – and it also feels like the perfect crescendo of Helander’s abilities as a director, as this is easily his best film to date.
Sisu follows a solitary prospector named Aatami (Jorma Tommila) who lives a quiet life with his dog in Northern Finland. Right after hitting the jackpot and finding gold after tirelessly mining, Aatami crosses paths with a bunch of Nazis who try to take the gold from him. Where Aatami began the film as a seemingly modest and unsuspecting prospector, the Nazis soon realize that he’s a brutal force to be reckoned with as he mows them down one-by-one. No matter what they throw at him, he hits back ten times harder.
Clocking in at 91 minutes, Sisu is one of the leanest and meanest action films I’ve seen in quite some time. The film has such an insane energy and urgency behind it from the very moment it begins, and it doesn’t let-up for the entire duration. As I previously stated, I think this is far and away director Jalmari Helander’s best film – not only because of the style and hyper-violence on display, but also how creative a lot of the set-pieces and kills actually are. It feels like a film compiled of all the best ideas the cast and crew could come up with, and it shows!
Another big reason that the film works as well as it does is due to the central performance from Jorma Tommila as Aatami. The film offers pure exposition and backstory for Aatami, but you don’t get a lot of opportunity to learn about him in the present day – you just hear about everything he’s been through and what he’s capable of/known for. Yet Tommila brings so much to the role and is genuinely intimidating before you even see him go toe-to-toe with the nazis; a wonderful lead performance that hits all the right notes.
There isn’t a lot going on underneath the surface of Sisu beyond being a showcase for our lead hero to kill as many Nazis as humanly possible, in various different ways, in the course of 91 minutes. The film immediately gets to the point, and also never once feels like it’s overstaying its welcome. I can’t exactly praise the film for being groundbreaking as it certainly isn’t, but if you feel as if you’re the target audience for this type of movie – you’ll probably love it! It commits to itself from beginning to end with both style and grit, and for that I applaud it.