Review Of Tetris

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With all the stops pulled out of it, including bending what could be called a “true story,” Tetris makes international video game rights negotiations seem fascinating. This twisted movie covers Cold War madness just before Gorbachev’s retirement via the insanely complicated plot of how Tetris cartridges found their way to customers worldwide. It is a lawsuit drama that pretends to be a showy political thriller, and Noah Pink (writer) and Jon S. Baird (director) try hard to turn it into an interesting story with some spice from Hollywood exaggerations, which results in too much.

The main actor Taron Egerton is Henk Rogers here who eventually established The Tetris Company, Inc in reality; we first meet him as a poor publisher residing at Tokyo until the falling down of digital blocks changed his life. As such, he plays it with business-savvy charisma and unstoppable determination braving through scenes where the most exciting thing that can happen is convincing Russian tech company managers to sign on those dotted lines. He’s like an American agent infiltrating Russia but he happens to be a businessman looking for licenses so as to start up something huge.

Next to his powerful star presence, supporting players often feel more like outlined stereotypes—he has Roger Allam playing sleazy Mirrorsoft owner Robert Maxwell or Oleg Stefan acting as Russian Elorg director Nikolai Belikov. In other words, when playing this part Egerton appears perpetually in conflict with accelerated music used during play and almost touching pieces when they are stacked up toward the ceiling but keeps pushing ahead thus bringing forth underdog charm that was also prevalent in Eddie the Eagle.

These now-defunct companies are hard to remember all by name- from Henk’s Bullet-Proof Software and Andromeda directed by Robert Stein (with Toby Jones perfectly fitting in as a slimy partner). The director does his best to clarify all complications arising between five different companies (Bullet-Proof, Elorg, Andromeda, Mirrorsoft, and Nintendo) but the more complicated situation is when console, arcade, computer as well as handheld rights are all put on the table simultaneously. However, sometimes a director’s best shot is not enough and Tetris piles up enough legal jargon to drown out any political rhetoric about the oppressive nature of communist Russia in the 1980s. Eventually, Baird throws together a semi-autobiographical dramedy that shines some light with history lesson elements and tries too hard to be a gamer film even though it starts feeling like a Saturday morning cartoon after a while.

This can become overwhelming because there is so much happening at once which numbs you. Tetris goes back and forth between overpacked corporate info dumps and meta video game entertainment like a ping pong game: one minute throwing us into character introductions next Henk’s life threatened like in Jason Bourne movies. Back-alley interrogations should be filled with tension but hardly raised my eyebrow while Henk’s conversations about money signs and royalties somehow rang true. Tetris aims for Succession-style darkness yet it wants to be as joyful and bright as an eight-bit side scroller resulting in rather discordant mix of moods especially given its Russian themes that hardly have anything deep to say apart from “Wow, the KGB really did suck.”

Then everything gets terribly crazy up till he’s a brave cowboy, Henk Rogers risking his life to get the handheld rights for Tetris. Baird uses colourful pixelated graphics that look like some early Nintendo-era games to introduce each chapter in the story, appropriately called “Levels,” thus giving Tetris an adventure-feel with a pot of gold at the end. Meanwhile, Lorne Balfe’s original score is among my finest selections this year; in Balfe’s compositions the familiar notes of Tetris’ stage background music seemed to bounce around as smooth Synthwave jams or quirky chip-tune remixes.

However, many steps have been made in order to make this movie feel like a video game despite its dry nature – characters are introduced as players, and game-ripped sound effects like bricks breaking or punches landing distort reality – all of which add an element of fun that would be absent from a contract-negotiating story such as Tetris.

Even the car chase, where Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) plays wheelman for Henk and two Nintendo dealmakers as corrupt KBG officials tail behind – a purely fabricated event – finds its place in Baird’s movie because it’s played for laughs (a Russian cover of “Holding Out For A Hero” hilariously blares). It all so daffy but director tells us this is what we need to know.


It is important to note that Jon S. Baird’s film is about how the first Soviet video game tore through the USSR barriers and became known worldwide. In his effort towards making legal paperwork drama thrilling, director Jon S. Baird does manage to turn what could have been just another montage of boardroom meetings into one big jet-setting dangerous and daring adventure filled with “based on” stories only hinting at real-life events. The problem always is how much information there is between the capitalist megacorporations with Russian connections and scammers who buy intellectual properties, which can be a little hard to follow in chronological order. Taron Egerton’s usual swashbuckling lead in this tonally conflicted rat race with shadowy government conspiracies is unsurprising – a weirdly disjointed but okay watch with an unlikely story about video game history gone awry.

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