“Sisu” is one of those films that arrived unannounced to surprise audiences like me with its relentless violence delivered by an almost-superhero character. It’s an intelligent, grownups-only, gory actioner – almost a kind of comic book fantasy – that should satisfy Tarantino fans and those who appreciate “Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant” on a neighboring screen.
Set in Lapland in 1944, it’s a time when the days of World War II are dwindling and the Nazis have begun to retreat, leaving devastation in their wake, destroying villages and taking some women captive.
SS officer Brun Helldorf (Aksel Hennie) and Wolf (Jack Doolan,) his second in command, lead a platoon.
Nearby, Aatami (Jorma Tommila) is a miner who has lost his family and searches for gold with only the company of his horse and dog.
At first, when the Nazis encounter Aatami, they think he’s just a harmless old man. But then they discover he has indeed found gold – and the Nazis make the mistake of trying to take it from him.
They don’t know that Aatami has earned the nickname of Koschei (“The Immortal”) and that he has brought many other Nazis to a bad end. He can be wounded, it seems, and nearly brought down, but appears to be able to recover enough to deliver violent ends to his enemies.
The remarkable Tommila is a sight to behold. Now in his 60s, this Finnish actor is sure to become a sort of cult performer for appreciative audiences unfamiliar with his earlier work. His character says very little. He doesn’t need to because the determined Aatami communicates through his often graphically violent actions, and sometimes just the look in his eyes or a tensing of his body.
“Sisu,” in case you were wondering, is a word for a Finnish concept that translates roughly to resiliency and determination.
The movie is told in chapters that will keep action aficionados riveted as the carnage unfolds.
Rated: R for foul language and graphic, relentless violence.
Running time: 91 minutes.
At Cinemark, Davenport.