Sisu Review

So, those of us who are not Finnish might require a bit of an explanation on what sisu is. You’ll find a lot of different definitions, but they all seem to miss the point. Sure, sisu is about perseverance, but its not only that. Its finding the solution, no matter what.

Like this generation our “hero”, Aatami Korpi, represents. They had just been in a war against Soviet Russia, and while you can’t honestly say they won, you can say that they did much, much better than anyone assumed they would. Finland was a small, poor country, with a miniscule population. These people went into war with the clothes on their back and the hunting rifle they had at home. So, what did they do? They found weaknesses, exploited them, and while the enemy was trying to recover and plug the hole, Finns had already found the next place to strike.

Korpi might be an embellishment, but as someone who is old enough to have knewn people from this generation (there are some left, but not many), I can say that it isn’t that much of an embellishment. Simo Häyhä (popularly known by the nickname given to him by Russians, the White Death) got shot in the face. Did it kill him? Of course not. He lived to be 96. My own grandfather got shot through the lungs in 1942 and was told he would die. That bullet eventually killed him, but only after 57 years, when he finally succumbed to the cancer that had started from that wound. Not that it was easy for them. They were heavily traumatized. My grandfather never talked about his experiences. He would only talk about the war from a very outsider perspective, like stories about what had been happening in Africa at the time.

The story is quite simple: We have man who is trying to escape the war by isolating himself in the wilderness as a gold miner. Have strikes it rich, but some retrieting Nazis find out what he has and try to steal it, but Korpi will not let that happen. Not much there. This is all about characterization and action.

I like how Finns are depicted here. They don’t talk much. That’s very Finnish. There is no need. They know what to do. Why waste time on words? Finnish isn’t even spoken until the epilogue where we hear a few lines of typically curt dialogue here and there.

For a movie with a budget of six million euros, the action is easily on the level of mid budget Hollywood movie. It is gory and while Korpi can take an endless amount of punishment, this feels more like an action movie from the 90s than 2000s, as he is not superheroic. The fights are just brutal, not stylized. Mostly Korpi just uses any tools available to him, which isn’t much, but he can make it work. I like the points where we don’t really even see what Korpi is doing, where the fear the Nazis feel is accentuated nicely.

All-in-all, it is a fun movie. As a Finn, it might appeal to me more than most, but they’ve clearly made this for international markets (as the Nazis speak English and the Finnish is kept to a minimum), so would assume this will work for others as a fun action flick as well.

One thought on “Sisu Review

  1. So, Jorma Tommila, who starred in this movie, lives in my place of birth, Vaasa, and because Finland is a small country, you can’t really be just a movie star. Therefore, he works at the local theater. His current role is as an iconic Finnish children’s character Herra Hakkarainen and he just reads stories to young children.

    A nice contrast to the role some people have called “the new action icon”.

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