When I went into the Sisu screening I knew only that it was a Finnish film, so was expecting an arthouse drama, maybe featuring bearded men in nice fisherman knits and herrings being salted, rather than this hyper-violent, viciously bloody exploitation flick from which I may never recover. It is a swift 90 minutes and will please those who desire this experience, and it is clever in its simplistic, empty way. But if it’s not your genre, you will almost certainly find yourself praying: ‘Dear God, I’ll never tell another lie if you just make this end.’
The film begins with a title card saying that ‘Sisu’ is a Finnish world that can’t be translated. It then says that ‘it means a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination’, so I’d say it can, but I’m not getting into a fight about it with any of these people, as they may drive a large blade through my skull or crush my torso under a tank tread. Never mess with these types is my advice.
It’s set in 1944 during the second world war as the Nazis are retreating from Finland but not quietly without a fuss. They’ve adopted a scorched-earth policy and are burning villages to the ground. They are set on leaving as much destruction as possible behind. The landscape is bleakly devastated and deserted but here is a lone fella (Jorma Tommila) panning for gold. He is grizzled, bearded, grimy, dirt-etched. He squints into the winter sun like Clint Eastwood, which is our first clue, right there, that he’s a badass. He has a horse and a dog, a Bedlington terrier, bizarrely (the campest, least macho dog I can think of, apart from a poodle). He finds a tiny nugget of gold, starts digging, uncovers the motherload and fills his saddlebags.