Taron Egerton and Company stacks up Nicely in the Compelling story of how the Puzzle-based game Tetris Escaped the Soviet Union to Become a Global Phenomenon.
DIRECTED BY JON S. BAIRD/2023
One of the better films of this early 2023 finds itself streaming on Apple TV+ and features an unlikely spy thriller centered around the classic computer game of Tetris. Everyone who grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s especially remembers this addictive game with its falling blocks as the user tries to create complete rows that disappear keeping the stacking blocks from stacking too high so as to avoid reaching the top and running out of room to maneuver the pieces as they fall. Director Jon S. Baird keeps the blocks of the film’s pacing falling at increasing speeds setting up a film that holds your interest, even through the credits. The film in question is Tetris.
The year is 1988 and Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) is seeking to sell a game of his own design at a gaming convention. Here, he encounters another vendor playing the game of Tetris. Trying to feel out the competition, Henk plays the game and is immediately hooked, even seeing the falling blocks in his sleep. While the vendor has computer gaming rights, Henk discovers that the arcade and home video game rights are in play. This will require him mortgaging his family’s future to secure these rights while facing off against a British software firm, and navigating the tricky political minefield of the Soviet Union, where the game’s designer, Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov), must sign off, despite not personally being able to benefit from any deal that is reached due to the nature of the communist state he lives in.
What will transpire is a film that itself is set up in 4 levels (or chapters) with an appropriate 80’s video game vibe that sees the stakes continually rise, just like the game in the story it is telling. The situations are compelling as we see how the Soviet Union was still capable of using capitalism despite its hardened stance against it. The fact that Tetris became an international phenomenon might make you think that you understand how it all ends, but the truth is that the journey is much more interesting than the destination. Even though its a destination that involves Sega, Nintendo, and the launch of the Nintendo Game Boy. Not to mention of the launching of the modern home video game systems.
Taron Egerton continues to be a master of disguise as he disappears into the role of Henk Rogers. If you have seen him as Elton John in Rocketman, Eddie the Eagle, or a member of the Kingsman: The Secret Service, you know how versatile he can be. Joining him in this film is Toby Jones, Oleg Stefan, Ayane Nagabuchi, and Kanon Narumi. The film is actually produced by Henk Rogers, Henk’s wife Akemi Rogers (Nagabuchi), and Alexey Pajitnov, who are the three main players of this puzzle-based video game.
Tetris is itself a sort of hidden gem of a film that is every bit as compelling as the game at the center of its story. Jon S. Baird (Stan & Ollie) has crafted a fantastic film that deserves to find a much wider audience. Apple was right to pursue to this film for its streaming service, and I believe more people will discover it as the Apple TV+ service continues to grow. Tetris is a film that deserves to be sought out, so check it out on Apple TV+.