ACTION; 1hr 31min (English and Finnish with subtitles)

STARRING: Jorma Tommila, Askel Hennie

Gold standard: Tommila

Late in 1944, with World War II winding down, Finland must disarm and expel the Nazis from Lapland under the terms of the Moscow Armistice. As the Nazis hit back with a typically mean-spirited scorched-earth policy, gold prospector Aatami Korpi (Tommila) is going about his meditative business in the middle of nowhere.


With his weathered collectedness, Aatami could almost be a mystic, the seam of gold he uncovers his holy grail. As it turns out, however, he is anything but saintly. Moseying on horseback into the grinning jaws of a troop of Nazi soldiers, he coolly refuses to call it a day, laying waste to their gold-grabbing hides with a gangster’s gelid poise. This doesn’t sit well with their commander (Hennie), who sets off with his men in a hotly weaponised pursuit that lands the now-horseless Aatami in a minefield — a setback which only goes to prove that when a bad day gets worse, a resourceful man will squeeze lemonade from the bitterest of lemons.


Although built on bones of fact, writer-director Jalmari Helander’s blood-and-guts revenge fantasy is entirely that, which doesn’t make the sight of exploding Nazis any less perversely satisfying. Sisu, the film’s opener explains, is an essentially untranslatable Finnish term for “courage and unimaginable determination [that] manifests itself when all hope is lost.” It’s also second nature to a heavily scarred survivor who, after losing his family to the Russians, has become an unstoppable killing machine.


The impossibility of Aatami’s terrible predicament is exactly what makes it work. His David–Goliath face-off may never have happened, but as told by Helander in no-nonsense chapters with unadorned dialogue and the remorseless momentum of the world’s worst nightmare, its settling of every score is the history revision you never knew you needed.