TIFF 2022: How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Sisu, Blueback | Festivals & Awards

ytsfreeSeptember 17, 2022

Speaking of anger, Jalmari Helander’s “Sisu” has a bunch of it. With very little dialogue, the director of “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” tells the very simple story of a brutal killing machine taking down some Nazis in the hazy days following the end of World War II. A version of the title basically means “Immortal,” and the protagonist here is that kind of Mad Max maniac, a former soldier tired of all the bullshit and just wants to go home. “Sisu” gets a bit repetitive and arguably lacks much to offer beyond its gore, but it works on its own B-movie terms. Who doesn’t want to watch Nazis go boom?

Helander’s regular collaborator Jorma Tommila plays a lone survivor on a desolate landscape in Northern Finland when he finds a gold deposit that could change his life forever. He packs up the gold and heads for the hills, but a convoy of fleeing Third Reich officers and soldiers happens upon him on his journey. Led by a vicious SS officer played by Aksel Hennie, these bad guys want the gold for themselves and don’t think much of tussling with an old prospector to get it. Of course, they discover that this is no ordinary wanderer as he outthinks and outlasts them in every way, often bouncing up after violence that would kill most ordinary men.

Helander doesn’t set out to rewrite the rulebook with “Sisu” and it’s refreshing to see a movie with comic-book level violence done with his degree of craftsmanship. “Sisu” is arguably pretty hollow, but that lack of pretension sometimes works in its favor. It’s a robust, old-fashioned action movie with one good guy who takes down dozens of bad dudes who underestimate him. Helander doesn’t have time for character detail or thematic depth—he’s too busy killing Nazis.

Finally, there’s the dismal “Blueback,” a weepy melodrama with performers I have loved in other films left totally adrift by director Robert Connolly, who was much more effective with last year’s strong “The Dry.” It’s hard to think of one thing that works about “Blueback” beyond maybe the natural beauty of its setting. Against that gorgeous backdrop, Connolly sets a coming-of-age tale that’s downright silly, never finding a tone that does anything beyond manipulation.

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