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Quick Reviews: 'Sisu', 'Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire' | Action Thriller, Zack Snyder

Jorma Tommila barely standing up, Sofia Boutella holding a weapon
Sisu (L), Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire (R)


Whenever you have words in your title that are hard to translate without going on tangents, it's delightful that movies sometimes let them simply be what they are. Written and directed by Jalmari Helander, action thriller Sisu (same title used in Finland) keeps it short and sweet, and not only with that title but also in terms of runtime and complexity. Set in the rural Lapland region of Finland in 1944, a notoriously lethal former soldier, Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila), has reverted to a new career as a gold prospector when the Lapland War between the Finns and Nazi Germany is coming to an end. Finally striking literal gold, Korpi begins his journey to a city in order to turn his gold into cash, but his plans are soon derailed when a Nazi death squad, led by commander Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie), stops Korpi and a life-and-death battle ensues.

It possibly couldn't be any easier to get on a film's wavelength as we watch the quiet yet effective Korpi annihilate the worst parts of humanity in a myriad of ways, all the while he's accompanied by animals that are a shortcut to audiences' hearts even if you consider that to be a cheap trick. Luckily Helander chooses to focus more on the ridiculous annihilation, which balances thrills and silliness rather immaculately, keeping you entertained and hollering continuously. A little bit of gold does get left undiscovered, though, as the spatial awareness isn't always great in the action scenes; Helander's direction and the stunt choreography don't use elements, Tommila's physique or Korpi's savvy to drive the action, which leaves a lot on the shoulders of explosions and guns.

At times you can put parts of those flaws aside as Sisu often looks and sounds great. Kjell Lagerroos' cinematography blends the harshness of Korpi's journey with the serenity of this milieu, breaking down the latter slowly as we head towards the final (and the most outrageous) action set piece in the film. At that point, you just have to surrender to Korpi and let him grab the wheel—or a yoke— because you'll surely have a riot.

Smileys: Tone, cinematography

Frowneys: Some issues with directing and stunt choreography


Bloody and bruised Jorma Tommila barely able to stand up
Nordisk Film


Ring up the rebels, we're going to space once again. Director Zack Snyder brings forward his take on the sci-fi adventure genre with Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child Of Fire, also being involved as a DoP and co-writer alongside fellow writers Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten.

This first part of the duology, that is seemingly a hopeful franchise starter, lands its spaceship on the titular moon called Veldt, a quiet farming colony in a galaxy that is currently being ruled by the fascist group known as Motherworld. Its military section Imperium led by admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein) arrives at Veldt causing havoc and distress, which leads Kora (Sofia Boutella), a farmer and former Imperium soldier, and her friend Gunnar (Michiel Huisman) to escape and start recruiting a group of rebel warriors across the galaxy to fight back against Motherworld. During their travels, they meet up with general Titus (Djimon Hounsou), swordmaster Nemesis (Bae Doona), rebel leader Darrian Bloodaxe (Ray Fisher), pilot Kai (Charlie Hunnam) and animal wrangler Tarak (Staz Nair).

You can smell blood in the water instantly when Snyder and his collaborators' approach to the material is to go for epic while the end result is rather unremarkable. That sort of dichotomy is just deadly and the path to said unremarkable nature is influenced by many different things that aren't up to the task. A big part of it is how even when you give a movie some leeway due to it obviously pulling heavily from its influences, which you can get with your first guesses, Snyder and his co-writers can't turn any of it into something interesting on the page. The dialogue is extremely trite throughout, relying on exposition without decorating it with proper visual storytelling.

That is also notable since whether or not you subscribe to auteurs, Snyder would certainly qualify as one and there is sometimes genuine intention with his direction, from well-realised VFX (supervised by Marcus Taormina and John ''DJ'' Desjardin) to Stephanie Porter's costumes. Most of that vision sadly then gets increasingly more blurred when you combine paper-thin characters and barely tolerable acting (excluding Skrein who elevates the material slightly) with poor writing as you're not invested enough in the characters' journeys. Final straws are the exhausting editing (by Dody Dorn) with its never-ending slow motion and Tom Holkenborg's music that tries too hard to compensate for the lack of excitement, both which unintentionally give you more than enough time to wonder where the excitement and epic drama were in the first place.

Smileys: VFX

Frowneys: Dialogue, editing, screenplay, characterisation


Sofia Boutella holding a strange gun

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