Thursday, April 27, 2023

This guy is just too tough to kill

 Set in Finland during the waning days of World War II, Sisu pits a grizzled hero (Jorma Tommila) against sadistic German soldiers who will stop at nothing to steal the gold Tommila's character discovers during the movie's gritty opening.
   Battle scarred and fierce, Tommila's Aatami Korpi has no intention of surrendering his riches. As he traverses the forbidding landscape of Lapland with his trusty dog, Korpi stands as an emblem of a familiar movie type: A guy who shouldn't be messed with.

    Sisu is a no-holds-barred foray into brutal invention, the kind that requires ingenuity and a willingness to abandon ordinary logic in favor of reinforcing the idea that Korpi can survive anything -- from hangings to plane crashes to bullets to ... well ... you know the drill.

   Korpi's nickname -- The Immortal -- underscores his ability to transcend ordinary limitation, even while his muck-covered flesh takes beating after beating.

   The Nazi soldiers, who have been ordered to destroy everything in their path, are led by a callous SS officer (Aksel Hennie) who sees the gold as a means to buying his way into a safe heaven, thus avoiding post-war prosecution for war crimes. 

   Korpi hardly speaks; he's too busy fighting for his life, a task that allows director Jalmari Helander to indulge a taste for blood, gore, and shocking violence. 

    Helander marches in the ranks of filmmakers who understand how to up a movie's savage ante, sometimes in ways that are breathtakingly outrageous.

     The word Sisu, we're told, doesn't yield to easy translation but stands for the kind of no-quit courage it takes to survive insurmountable odds. The movie makes that seem like an understatement.

  A hint of moral rectitude arises when Korpi helps to save a group of women the Nazis are holding as sex slaves, but mostly the movie operates at elemental levels.

  Not all viewers will want to subject themselves to Sisu's unrelenting brutality. But those who have a taste of this kind of cinema will find an intense one-hour and 31-minute plunge into a starkly diminished world.

  All that's left is the drive to survive and, of course, sisu. Lots of it.

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