A couple of years ago, AppleTV+ announced that it was acquiring the rights to a Tetris film starring Kingsman actor Taron Egerton. And that it would be rated “R”. Immediately we thought of the trainwreck that was Battleship, and whether Tetris would be on that level, taking on gigantic falling pieces in an effort to save the world. Alas, we let our imagination get the best of us (though we’d still see that).
Instead, Tetris is presented as a thrilling political comedy, telling the (somewhat) true story of how Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov brought the hit puzzle game to the world. Jon S. Baird directs with a deft hand, and it’s great to see what Egerton and his fellow cast mates bring to the table. It’s a smart video game film – something that we never thought we’d see after the likes of Super Mario Bros.: The Movie. Gasp.
Building Things Up
The movie focuses on Rogers (Egerton) and his fascination with Tetris after seeing it at the CES show in Las Vegas. He decides that it’s the ideal way to make some money in the growing gaming world, and immediately begins to seek out the international rights for the game for distribution.
Alas, it’s not that easy. He has to deal with a British firm, and then also digs into the heart of Moscow itself, where he meets the inventor of the game, Alexey (Nikiti Yefremov). But Rogers soon finds that everything doesn’t come easy, especially with the fall of the Berlin wall looming and political partners popping out of the woodwork. All he wants to do is distribute a game, man!
Some of the “facts” may be elaborated for film purposes, but director Jon S. Baird keeps Tetris moving nicely with some terrific human comedy and some nice, intense moments. Also, we should mention the recreation of the 80s atmosphere, which is absolutely splendid. And, honestly, I could go for a boxed Game Boy system right about now. I miss that thing. Not to mention I need to track down my Europe CD. It’s here somewhere…
Clearing the Lines
Of course, a film is only as good as its performers. Fortunately, Baird and his team make sure that their cast is up to task.
Egerton leads the pack beautifully as Rogers, using a pretty good American accent as he tries to piece together something as simple as distribution rights for a game. But Yefremov provides a wonderful sense of humanity as Pajitnov, a simple programmer who has no idea what kind of true “monster” he’s created for the gaming world.
There are other strong performers as well. Roger Allam knocks it out of the park as Robert Maxwell, an investor whose mysterious disappearance looms large over the story as a whole. And Toby Jones, straight out of Captain America, has a ball as Robert Stein, another potential investor. There’s also Rick Yune, Anthony Boyle, Ayane Nagabuchi and Ben Miles adding extra weight as well.
And, again, Baird and his team nail the aesthetic of the film beautifully. It’s a lot of fun to watch and endure, even if some moments are all like, “Nah, this can’t be true.” But it makes Tetris far more fascinating than it has every right to be.
Man, were the 80s different. But they hit hard and gave us so many moments along the way. The back story of Tetris, as flimsy as it is sometimes, is still fun to watch, thanks to Baird and his solid team of actors. It’s very well done for an AppleTV+ film, and certainly worth a watch if you’re a video game fan or not. I’d hardly call it the perfect video game film, but, hey, it could have been a lot, lot worse. Are those giant puzzle pieces still coming…?
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