Sitges 2022: Jalmari Helander’s ‘Sisu’ Introduces an Action Legend
by Alex Billington
October 17, 2022
Don’t mess with the Finns!! They’re some of the most resilient, brave, toughest people on this planet. Holy shit!! Buckle up for this one, and get ready for one hell of a ride. This film absolutely RULES!! Sisu is the latest feature made by Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander, known for his genre films Rare Exports and Big Game previously. He returns to the 2022 Sitges Film Festival with his action thriller Sisu, also known as Immortal (not a good title for this one – stick with Sisu), which initially premiered in Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival. It ended up winning the top prize of Best Feature Film at Sitges – deservedly so. I had an absolute blast watching this and the Sitges audience ate it up, cheering throughout, even giving it a standing ovation at the end. I’d happily watch it again right away. The film establishes an irrefutable truth – Jalmari Helander is one of the best action filmmakers working today. This lives up to the hype in every way.
“Sisu” is a Finnish concept described as “stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness” and is held by Finns themselves to express their national character. Don’t mess with them. It is generally considered not to have a literal equivalent in English. There is no translation. That is the intro to this film – and that is why it’s called Sisu. After watching, I’m ready to proclaim that it couldn’t be a more perfect title – the film embodies and portrays that concept better than any translation ever could. Sisu is set during World War II and introduces us to an unnamed man who has decided to leave the war behind and search for gold in the remote wilderness Lapland region of Finland (see Google Maps). He strikes a vein and heads back to town, only to discover that the Nazis have been taking a “scorched Earth” approach as they make their way out of Finland – burning and destroying and killing everything as they slowly head back towards Norway. He is forced to confront them if he wants to live. And oh hell yes, confront them he does.
Finnish actor Jorma Tommila stars as the mysterious Aatami Korpi – the legendary immortal Finn. He’s been in Helander’s other films, but after this, it will be hard to ever forget him. Yeah, sure, Sisu is definitely Mad Max: Fury Road set in Finland’s Lapland during WWII but it’s still uber badass. It follows a similar concept involving a lead actor who doesn’t speak much, one of the most furiously unfuckwithable characters ever to be put on screen, who single-handedly takes on an entire battalion of Nazis chasing him in trucks. And with one tank. This guy is now an action cinema icon, all hail Jorma Tommila!! Even if it is an obvious homage to Mad Max, Tommila’s mostly dialogue-free performance is the epitome of fucking awesome. Not to mention, everyone in the cast is mean & tough & takes on their role with grit. Aksel Hennie and Jack Doolan co-star as two Nazi bastards. Mimosa Willamo plays a kick ass woman who joins the fight. And Finnish actor Onni Tommila, also from Rare Exports and Big Game, is one of the supporting highlights.
If you’re an action fan, this film is a must watch as soon as it comes your way. It is worth the effort to find a way to watch it on the big screen with the volume UP. I seriously think this Aatami Korpi guy now rivals John Wick as one of the most badass, unkillable, formidable, tough-as-steel motherfuckers in cinema. Need more of him because hell yes he absolutely owns!! A certified hero of gnarly awesomeness. I would watch him take out the bad guys in any situation!! They should make a franchise where he just appears at various points in time throughout history and wipes out a batch of evil people and lives on in immortal glory forever and ever. Sisu might just be my favorite Jalmari Helander film so far!! I think he’s getting better and better with each new film he makes. I don’t even mind if this doesn’t have much depth to it, the action experience is so immersive and exhilarating, it’s a completely satisfying experience. Finland shall never back down. ????????