Director Jalmari Helander drops us into all the murder and mayhem of the last desperate days of WWII. It’s there that we meet a solitary prospector (Jorma Tommila) as he crosses paths with Nazis on a scorched-earth retreat in northern Finland. In the northern wilderness of Lapland a Finnish veteran Aatami Korpi is digging for gold while the war rages around him. Eventually, he hits a huge lode and starts journeying south with his riches. However, he quickly runs into a platoon of Nazis led by an SS officer Bruno Helldorf, who realize what he’s carrying and try to take the gold for themselves. What follows is a brutal struggle and chase across the Lapland wilderness as Aatami, himself an established commando, uses every trick he knows to keep hold of the fortune he has earned. When the Nazis steal his gold, they quickly discover that they have just tangled with no ordinary miner. While there is no direct translation for the Finnish word “sisu”, this legendary ex-commando will embody what sisu means: a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination in the face of overwhelming odds. And no matter what the Nazis throw at him, the one-man death squad will go to outrageous lengths to get his gold back – even if it means killing every last Nazi in his path. Director Jalmari Helander (Big Game) joins us to talk about the film(s) that provided the inspiration for SISU, working with Jorma Tommila, and the way in which SISU has dramatically impacted his film career.
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About the filmmaker – Jalmari Helander has achieved international renown with his two feature films Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) and Big Game (2014). Helander started directing in commercials in 2003 and quickly won awards for his work for Nokia, Finnish Defence Forces and rapper Redrama among others. He made his first feature Rare Exports in 2010 based on his short films Rare Exports Inc (2003) and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005). The film was a huge success and secured worldwide distribution as well as the Piazza Grande award at Locarno, the best director award at Sitges and the audience award at Brussels among many other prizes. His second feature Big Game was an action adventure set in the Finnish wilderness and starred Samuel L. Jackson, Jim Broadbent, Felicity Huffman and Ray Stevenson. It had a strong reception after its world premiere in the Toronto Film Festival and sold out worldwide. Helander has also directed several TV series and was nominated for an international Emmy for Wingman (2019).
“An amalgamation of Sergio Leone by way of First Blood and Mad Max – to say it’s Tarantino-adjacent would be too easy – Sisu is visually exciting, shamelessly playful, and always, always unpredictable.” – Peter Gray, The AU Review
“Relentlessly brutal and unexpectedly hilarious, Sisu is a hoot, a holler, and the most fun you can have watching Nazis get absolutely destroyed by a gold-hunting ex-military grandpa.” – Meg Shields, Film School Rejects
“A splashy popcorn action piece unconcerned with credibility, pushing well-worn ideas to outlandish, and outrageously entertaining, ends.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety
“With Sisu, Helander creates an incredibly visceral action film that moves with all the fury of a runaway train, wired to detonate upon impact.” – Faisal Al-Jadir, Film Inquiry