Tetris already had the building blocks to be something great and put a fresh spin on the Cold War-era film by making it a behind-enemy-lines legal 8-bit western where everyone makes up the rules as they go.
Directed by Jon S. Baird, we review the 2023 Apple TV+ film Tetris, which does not contain spoilers.
You wouldn’t think a movie about stacking blocks like a toddler would instantly capture the world’s imagination. Nor would another movie about venturing beyond the Iron Curtain be anything but another dry exercise in moral dilemmas of good versus evil.
However, Tetris puts a fresh spin on the Cold War-era film by making it a behind-enemy-lines legal 8-bit western, one where everyone seems to be making up the rules as they go along.
Tetris movie Review and Plot summary
The story of Tetris starts at a software convention where the floppy disks are king. Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) owns Bullet-Proof Software, a gaming company based in Tokyo, Japan. He stumbles across the game and immediately asks for a loan to acquire distribution rights in Japan.
The problem is the genius behind the game, Alexey Pajitnov (played by Nikita Efremov), made it on government property. Believe it or not, one of the most successful inventions in videogame history was created without state-of-the-art software or the latest modern computer.
Alexey relied on wit, determination, and bunching parenthesis to put together what are now classic Tetris shapes.
From there, Henk tries negotiating the video game, personal computer, and arcade rights with Mirrorsoft, owned by Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam), who assigns his son, Kevin (Anthony Boyle), to oversee management and distribution.
They hire an independent contractor, Robert Stein (Toby Jones), to help obtain those rights. With Henk now working with Nintendo, he tries to work out who owns what, which is all intentionally confusing but never convoluted.
The fact is that these guys were making up the rules as they went along. The crux of the story is Egerton’s Henk being the key to resolving these disputes and bringing the game to handheld models worldwide.
Directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth, Stan & Ollie) and working with a script from Noah Pink (Genius), Tetris is the type of film with such mainstream appeal that can cross generations easily.
Everyone from old-school gamers to modern “eAthlete” and gaming YouTubers, the rise and staying power of a game that sold over a half-billion games worldwide is a fascinating history lesson, all told with an entertaining fondness for the product and the period.
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While you can question the legitimacy of the script, this is a piece of entertainment, after all. Baird doesn’t get bogged down with legal terms. This makes it more than digestible for the viewer.
And that’s what makes Tetris so interesting—the back-and-forth high-stakes negotiations. You didn’t seem to need a legal degree. All you had to do was be the first to show up to make history.
You’ll enjoy how Pink’s script details how ridiculous the process was. Just as you would think, trying to secure rights to an obscure video game from a communist country under the protection of its own imposed Iron Curtain was absurd. A political-corporate game of he said, she said, all claiming property no one has rights for.
A key to the script and story work is Taron Egerton’s funny and emotional turn, as consistently entertaining as it is engaging.
Although the characters are widely different in presenting themselves, it’s similar to the star’s role in Eddie the Eagle. The actor seems to respond and is attracted to projects about people who won’t quit at any cost.
Egerton’s characters are dreamers and overcome adversity, which people respond to. At the same time, his role doesn’t delve too much into typical tropes about taking the family for granted.
Except in one over-the-top scene, and you more than get that from Efremov’s Alexey. While you root for Henk, Efremov displays the film’s heart by toeing a fine line to keep his family safe.
Is the 2023 movie Tetris good?
Tetris already had the building blocks to be something great, and Baird’s film succeeds in almost every way.
Yes, Allman’s makeup looks like a mask taken from the Smithsonian exhibit of Point Break. Sure, multiple characters are remarkably similar. However, the cast revels in their roles, with the majority acting like first-class yuppy assholes.
That’s because it’s all in good fun, from the liberating constraints of a typical cold war chase scene to Lorne Balfe’s eccentric and playful score.
Tetris shows us there is always a good story to tell. You just have to go and find it.
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