SISU has one of the wildest and most memorable red-band trailers as of late, which really got me excited to see the movie. Unfortunately, SISU, a one-dimensional film about a Finnish gold miner battling Nazis in WW2, did not quite live up to the hype.
Writer/Director Jalmari Helander is clearly talented, and prior to SISU had a bunch of Finnish TV and a couple of low-budget features under his belt. Even on an estimated € 6MM budget, this looks to be his most high-profile international release so far. He’s obviously heavily influenced by Tarantino. SISU has the outlook of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (killing Nazis is great) and the chapter style of Hateful Eight or Kill Bill. But Tarantino’s chapters denote actual breaks in the plot. In SISU, there’s no real break. The plot is continuous, and the chapters are unnecessary. For example, I would have quickly figured out these evil men on screen were Nazis without a chapter called “The Nazis.”
On the plus side, SISU is somewhat cathartic if you like watching terrible <fictional> people die violent deaths. The world feels like there’s another rise of Nazism and its various offshoots, and these types of things must be dealt with swiftly. So watching one after another die a ridiculously bloody death is… well, it’s fun. The Finnish gold miner of SISU speaks almost no dialogue and only has his real name mentioned briefly. I get why they named him – the audience knows why he’s so badass. But he never needed to speak a word. Jorma Tommila, who plays the lead, needs no dialogue to show us he’s not messing around. His attitude toward the Nazis, “You’ve ruined my country, but I will not let you take me down with it,” shines through in every action he takes.
Unlike Tarantino films, there are no subplots or complicated characters. Even our hero is one-dimensional. He’s the good guy; the Nazis are the bad guys and must be killed. If you’re into 90 straight minutes of watching them have their asses handed to them, you’ll enjoy SISU on a purely surface level. Don’t try digging for any further meaning or lesson, as there are none. I found the choice to have the film almost entirely in English (instead of Finnish or Finnish & German) interesting. Perhaps this is the director’s style; I haven’t seen his previous projects. It may make this film more accessible here in the US outside the arthouse scene. Yet in the age of films like EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE or PARASITE being broadly seen, I’m not sure if it’s necessary.
SISU opens in American theatres on April 28th.