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A Man of Few Words is a Nazi Killer

If you can stand violence and can manage with little dialogue, this film is for you.
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May 17, 2023
Jorma Tomilla in “Sisu”

Part of going to a movie is suspending our belief, especially when one man can take out a huge number of enemies without getting killed. “Sisu” is a film about a man named Aatami (Jorma Tommila), a former Finnish soldier , who in 1944 chanced upon a nice amount of gold. Brutal SS men think they will simply take the gold and kill Aatami. There’s hand-to-hand fighting — Aatami stabs one Nazi in the head — explosions and a lot of testosterone. If only there would have been people in real life like this guy killing Nazis to save Jews, rather than gold, it would have been wonderful.

This film has among the fewest lines of dialogue that you will hear, which can be viewed as a strength or a weakness. After all, what is there to say? The man wants to live and keep his gold. 

This film has among the fewest lines of dialogue that you will hear, which can be viewed as a strength or a weakness. After all, what is there to say? The man wants to live and keep his gold. The Nazis want to kill him and take the gold. It’s not like Henry Kissinger is going to jump in for some conversations about negotiations. There is no exact translation for “Sisu” but it refers to a white knuckled form of courage and determination against incredible odds.

Why doesn’t Aatami simply give up the gold, rather than risk his life. Apparently because he thinks he’s a badass who can kill them all. He has a dog and horse, is a simple man and whatever he learned as a soldier has made him a one-man death squad. In getting back his gold, his strength is otherworldly — he survives landmines.

There is no complexity here. The Nazis are evil. Aatami is good. The Finnish women, captives of the Nazis who are sexual prisoners are good people and can be free if the Nazis are killed.

The film is beautifully shot and has an almost comic book feel. The point of the film is the action, the violence, the carnage, the murder, the death and the life, the winners and the losers. Even so, the film would have been stronger with a bit more dialogue to flesh out some characters a little.

The fantasy of killing Nazis was shown as well in “Inglourious Basterds” though there were more lines of dialogue in the first few minutes of that film than all of “Sisu.”

Aksel Hennie is decent as a baddie named Bruno. Directed and written by Jalmari Helander, credit must be given for making a film that is different from most. There is much left unsaid; the audience understands that this period of time was difficult. Here is a man, clinging to gold, the one prize he can have and he doesn’t want to be taken away from him, as if that would be the final dishonor, and if he needs blood, guts, mud or anything on him to get to the finish line and exchange the gold for money, that’s fine. The final scene of the film tries to be humorous and isn’t really, but we can let that slide.

This is one of the more pure and potent films you will see. It is not one that requires you to think very much. It doesn’t ask you to examine the root causes of evil, only to admit that some people have committed atrocities, and while we may hope that they burn in hell, as there is no guarantee there is one, it is our duty to eliminate them.

The film may have a cathartic benefit to many. Aatami is the anti-James Bond who can still be still pretty cool. If you can stand violence and can manage with little dialogue, this film is for you.

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