Sisu Review: Jalmari Helander Reminds Us Of The Joys Of Seeing Nazis Get Blown Up [TIFF]

It's been a while since we've seen a Jalmari Helander movie, with his most recent film "Big Game" premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2014. Considering how both "Rare Exports" and "Big Game" are considered cult favorites among genre fans, this absence might feel a bit strange.

Thankfully, he's returned to fill that void after an eight-year hiatus. "Sisu," also known by its English title "Immortal," is schlock in the purest sense, making for a great addition to this year's TIFF under the Midnight Madness block. Set towards the tail-end of World War II, it centers around the solitary gold miner Aatami (Jorma Tommila), whose good fortune is interrupted by an army of Nazis enacting a scorched earth protocol throughout Finland. Of course, these Nazis realize too late that the old man they are dealing with is a legendary soldier with a reputation for killing anyone who gets in his way. Think a Finnish John Wick, good boy included, but with gold and far more violent tendencies.

When all hope is lost

There's not a ton to discuss regarding the plot. "Sisu" has a laser focus when it comes to unraveling itself — Aatami finds gold, Nazis interrupt and taunt him, and then Aatami fights back in increasingly brutal ways. Besides the introduction of a group of female prisoners (led by Mimosa Willamo), there are no other side plots or stories to uncover, which actually works in the film's favor. It has no concern with portraying the Nazis as anything other than stereotypically violent and meat-headed, making their gruesome deaths at the hands of Aatami that much more satisfying. Seriously, what kind of a person are you if you don't laugh at a Nazi getting a land mine thrown at his head?

Speaking of these deaths, the blood and gore look to be some sort of mix between practical and CGI, courtesy of Finnish company Troll VFX. While there are a couple of instances where the implementation of the latter is more obvious, it doesn't take away from the actual experience. This is especially true when paired up with the well-choreographed action, as it is so fast-paced that it makes the majority of the CGI blood relatively realistic. As far as its practical effects go, there are some gnarly instances of Aatami trying to piece himself back together again after brutal combat, which will likely make even the most hardened viewer shift a little in their seat.

He just refuses to die

At the end of the day, however, Helander knows you're not watching this movie for an intricate plot or the greatest visual effects. You're watching "Sisu" to see an older gentleman at his wit's end, beating the living hell out of Nazis. Nothing more, nothing less. On that front, he absolutely delivers, although the constant "we think he's dead, but he actually isn't" schtick does start to overstay its welcome. Thankfully, at a lean 91 minutes, by the time you start to get a little tired of it, the movie is already inching closer to its finale.

"Sisu" knows exactly what it is and what it wants to do — and it does it well. Sometimes, it winks at the camera, and at other times, it plays itself deadly straight. Tommila, who speaks only in grunts for the majority of the film, once again proves himself as a formidable leading man, while Aksel Hennie as SS Captain Bruno hams it up without ever going overboard. If you're looking for mindless fun that harkens back to the days of Nazispolitation, Helander's got just the right film for you.

/Film rating: 7.5 out of 10