Monday Mystery Movie: ‘Sisu’ misses no detail in showing the harsh realities of war

Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Once again, Regal Cinemas Monday Mystery Movie has gone above and beyond for their film of choice for April 17.

Regal’s official Twitter account hinted at what to expect this time around, saying “It’s not for the faint of heart…” As per usual, Twitter users commented their predictions, and it looked like the new horror film “Evil Dead Rise” was the number one guess. 

One thing about me — I am not a demonic horror movie fan, but I figured I could suck it up for a night, because I simply refuse to miss a Monday Mystery Movie.

I sat in the theater, anxiously awaiting the start of the film. When the previews ended and the movie began, it was one I bet nobody saw coming: “Sisu.”

“Sisu” is a European historical action/war film that follows Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), an ex-soldier who finds the motherload of gold in the Finnish wilderness during World War II. When he ventures out of his camp to bring his gold to the city, he encounters a group of Nazi soldiers who are hell-bent on killing him and stealing his gold.

However, these Nazis soon realize they’ve messed with the wrong man, as Aatami Korpi is a one-man killing machine responsible for killing over 500 Soviets. And legend has it that Sisu is immortal. 

His nickname, Sisu, is from a Finnish word that roughly translates to “…strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity,” according to Finlandia University.

“Sisu” was a movie I never in a million years would have had the desire to see, and I was skeptical through the beginning. But the more I watched, the more I had the desire to keep watching.

The action and tension in “Sisu” was like none I have witnessed before. As I watched the old man on his journey, the threat of what was yet to come hung heavy upon the audience. Goosebumps never left my skin, and I was white-knuckled through every action sequence.

It was clear I wasn’t the only audience member who felt this way. In the second chapter of the film, titled “The Nazis,” we see Aatami being stopped by a gang of three soldiers who find his bag of gold and attempt to kill him.

As one of the soldiers is demanding Aatami to get on his knees while holding a gun to his head, close up shots of Aatami’s face make him look like a teapot ready to scream. What happens next sets the rest of the plot in motion.

Aatami turnsed around and stabbed the Nazi straight through the head. There was a collective gasp from the audience, because up until that point, Aatami was painted to be a quiet and vulnerable old man. But watching him tactfully fight and murder three Nazi’s told the audience very bluntly — Sisu means business.

[Jorma Tommila stars as Aatami Korpi in the film “Sisu”.]
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

According to IMDB, “Sisu” is rated R for “strong bloody violence, gore and language.” By far, “Sisu” is the goriest movie I have ever seen. Once the first scene of Aatami knifing the Nazis finished, groups of people left the theater. The more violence and carnage that occurred, the more people left. In total, I saw about 10 groups leave in the first half of the movie.

That’s the hard part about Monday Mystery Movies. When all you have is the rating and the runtime, it’s very difficult to know what you’re getting yourself into. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, and other times you have to leave the theater.

The high-quality gore wasn’t the only remarkable thing about “Sisu.” In fact, everything about this movie was remarkable. One element for me stood high above the rest, and that was the way in which the story was told.

“Sisu” was told in seven different chapters, with a title slide labeling each one. The chapters had names like “Chapter One: The Gold,” “Chapter Three: The Minefield” and “Chapter Four: The Legend.”

I love when a film separates its beats and turning points using chapters, as I feel it helps to move the story along — something I think was vital to the success of “Sisu.” Since there is no dialogue until the second chapter, and no major conversation until the third chapter, the pacing helped push the story forward and guarantee the audience that there was more to come.

Another notable detail in “Sisu” is that Aatami doesn’t speak for the entirety of the movie, save for two lines — and I won’t tell you when they happen or what they are but trust me, it was worth the suspense.

Having Aatami as a silent character created such an impact on all of his actions. In the beginning, it made him seem vulnerable and wholesome. But once the brutality started, he came across as menacing and unpredictable. 

It takes talent to move a story forward with minimal dialogue, and the screenplay was written in such a detailed way that the setting and action overcompensated for the lack of lines.

Despite the violent acts Sisu commits, you can’t help but root for his character. Sisu is resourceful, skilled in combat, highly intelligent and just like the legends say, he just won’t die.

After the film was finished, I started to research it and found a shocking fact: “Sisu” was made on a budget of only 6 million euros. The average budget for a Hollywood motion picture is $65 million U.S. dollars — about 59 million euros. This just made me all the more impressed with “Sisu.”

Nothing about this movie screamed “low budget.” In fact, it gave quite the opposite impression. The actors were all phenomenal, the CGI and special effects were jaw-dropping and the war-time vehicles used were hyper-realistic. 

“Sisu” truly was a film I will never forget, and not just because of the intense bloodshed. Once you look past the gore, you see an intricate story about the reality of World War II and just how horrible things were.

“Sisu” is a limited theatrical release coming out on April 28, and while “Sisu” may not be the film for everyone, it is definitely worth watching if you can handle its content. 

Check your local theaters to see if “Sisu” is coming to a big screen near you.

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