Never Mess with a Man’s Dog (or His Gold)
There’s little to say about Sisu that doesn’t involve its hyper-violence and lyrical-esque brutality. Sisu exists to satisfy the ceaseless urge to watch Nazis die in horrific ways, and the context to that slaughter doesn’t deviate from the clear good versus evil at the film’s core.
Few words are spoken on either side; were the script nothing but dialog, it’s all of four or five pages. Sisu speaks through its menagerie of mine-exploded body parts, crushed skulls, and endless bullet wounds. While comic in the absurd, Sisu never openly shares a sense of humor, and neither does its war hero Aatami (Jorma Tommila).
Nuanced Sisu is not
Nuanced Sisu is not
Aatami serves as an initially indifferent protagonist, a man who served his time in the war, seeking out a peaceful existence on Finland’s outskirts digging for gold. Like similar war films, Sisu plays to a point where ambivalence is no longer possible – eradicating the Nazi threat became everyone’s duty, an attempt to stamp out grotesque mindsets as a united force. Or in this case, one guy (mostly).
Sisu doesn’t exist in reality. Rather, it’s a parable about one man’s unwillingness to die before his time, turning into a legend in the process. Wartime often brings stories like this, whether about a ruthless squad like Inglorious Basterds or an individual. Sisu entertains through its glorious torment of Nazi forces, but also depicts a drive and a need that embodied such soldiers, even as Sisu turns toward the absolute ridiculous for its finale.
As with countless Nazi-sploitation action epics, the goal is only to serve the massacre, energizing an audience by showing brains, guts, and sliced arteries against a villain that’s obviously wrong. Nuanced Sisu is not, choosing the broad cardboard Nazi trope and running with it. There’s zero interest in explaining the historical context, rather just the need to use it as a baseline to tell this fictional hero’s story.
What remains is a hollow, simple exercise in extreme action cinema, but one carefully crafted to feel and look unique. Finland’s fall backdrop is an inspired setting, and understanding the near mute Sisu always comes back to a man looking for peace. Yet in that, Sisu shows a circumstance where peace is only viable after violence and death. It’s also a warning to never mess with a man’s gold – or his dog.
On the grittier side, Sisu often uses noise for an effect. The artificial grain hovers over much of the cinematography, without any genuine problems from the encode. This leaves behind crisp, precise imagery, the type that is instantly recognizable as full 4K material. The texture and sharpness defines the gorgeous landscapes and the hardened skin texture on star Jorma Tommila.
Sisu uses a fall-like color palette, the various plants withering in the changing weather, but featuring a sensational array of browns and oranges, with the slightest greens clinging on. Flesh tones favor bronzed tans, hardened and thick.
While not a glowing example of this format’s potential, Dolby Vision certainly adds punch to the various sun-soaked landscapes; they’re bright without drawing attention to the effect itself. Stellar black levels give Sisu significant dimension and depth.
Incoming planes make the first impression within this TrueHD track. They surround the soundstage and pan back-to-front flawlessly. Sisu rates as one of the first time the potential Atmos effects are obviously missed, a sure sign those overhead effects on other discs are making an impression in how we hear home theater audio.
Tanks roll across the screen, their engines and treads thumping in the low-end. Sisu’s sufficient range doesn’t align it with the best blockbusters, but considering the scale/budget, it’s close enough. Tank rounds explode with a consistent burst. Gunfire has its own punch (mounted guns, anyway) although this is muddier and less precise.
Just two bonuses, one of them a 24-minute making-of, and other detailing the visual effects for 10-minutes.
Foregoing any complexity or nuance, Sisu plays as a direct exploitation film, blood, guts, and vengeance all in tow.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 38 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD: