HomeMovies Reviews‘Tetris’ Review: Taron Egerton in a Compelling Video Game Origin Story That...

‘Tetris’ Review: Taron Egerton in a Compelling Video Game Origin Story That Could Have Been More

Somewhere alongside the way in which in Jon S. Baird’s fleet and compelling fictionalized have a look at the invention of Tetris, you neglect that you simply’re watching a movie a few online game. Zippy automotive chases, farcical negotiation scenes and a tour of Nineteen Eighties-era convention rooms all over the world make Tetris, which premiered at SXSW and airs on Apple TV+ on the finish of March, greater than an abnormal origin story. Baird (Stan & Ollie) makes use of the convoluted licensing battle across the recreation to border a sturdy and infrequently humorous drama about capitalism, mental property and the specter of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Tetris’ willingness to sort out these themes certainly makes it extra absorbing than your common streamer fare, nevertheless it additionally makes you would like the movie went farther in exploring its ambivalence concerning the relationship between artistic expression and greed.

The story begins in ’80s Las Vegas, the place Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton), a Dutch nationwide raised in New York and residing in Japan, is attempting to promote his recreation, Go, at a conference. His efforts to corral passersby are, to place it bluntly, unsuccessful. Not solely is Henk competing with the town and its promise of slot-machine riches, however he’s stationed subsequent to a much more gripping recreation: Tetris. The falling tetriminoes, which have to be turned and flipped to create an entire line, have even stolen his salesgirl, who floated to the subsequent station and by no means returned.


The Bottom Line

Enjoyable, so far as it goes.

Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Headliners)
Release date: Friday, March 31 (Apple TV+)
Cast: Taron Egerton, Nikita Efremov, Sofia Lebedeva, Anthony Boyle, Ben Miles
Director: Jon S. Baird
Screenwriter: Noah Pink

Rated R,
1 hour 58 minutes

Like any good businessman, Henk nosily investigates the competitors. What he finds just some ft away is an addictive puzzle recreation, an enthralling composition of multicolored blocks. He impulsively buys the pc and arcade rights for Japan (a transfer he clumsily rationalizes to his impatient financial institution supervisor, performed by Rick Yune).

Everyone who encounters Tetris seems like Henk. The recreation, invented by Russian laptop engineer and recreation designer Alexey Pajitnov (portrayed by Nikita Efremov) in 1984, was not like something in the marketplace on the time. The easy aesthetic and easy objective (to create an entire row, which then disappears) drew gamers in. The temporary thrill of incremental problem-solving saved them hooked.

In the 2004 documentary Tetris: From Russia with Love, Pajitnov and a gallery of speaking heads attribute the sport’s widespread enchantment to the way it tapped right into a extra artistic a part of the human psyche. Tetris impressed you to construct one thing; it was, in Pajitnov’s phrases within the doc, imbued with the “spirit of constructing.”

I think timing additionally performed a big half within the recreation’s early success. Tetris breached the digital partitions of the Iron Curtain because the Soviet Union was on the point of collapse. The recreation gained notoriety inside Russia after which the remainder of the Soviet international locations earlier than its license was acquired by Robert Stein (performed by Toby Jones), a shrewd businessman who created a market out of shoddy license acquisitions. It linked, nonetheless tenuously, folks all over the world to a spot that they had been taught to concern. 

Tetris effectively covers this historical past in its opening moments via Henk’s voiceover narration and expository gross sales pitch to his financial institution supervisor. But Baird is extra within the weird occasions that subsequently made the sport a runaway success internationally and ultimately secured a credit score for its creator. By truncating the early a part of the sport’s origin story, the movie pushes attention-grabbing questions on its underground distribution (Pajitnov copied it for mates, who copied it for different mates, and many others.) to the margins.

Baird’s method is much like David Fincher’s in The Social Network, one other movie that makes use of a protracted authorized battle to border inquiries about greed and capitalism. Like the sooner film, Tetris, with its dour visible palette, menacing rating and jittery digicam angles, performs like a thriller. But Baird provides prospers that save the movie from cynicism, most notably the 16-bit animation interludes introducing characters as gamers and chapters as ranges and utilizing Europe’s “The Final Countdown” as a musical motif.

Noah Pink’s screenplay provides us stable sufficient foundations to grasp the motives of every character, however not sufficient to forestall them from often feeling like avatars. Egerton’s Henk, performed with an earnest goofiness, turns into a logo for integrity and honesty. More than the license for distribution, he needs Efremov’s Alexey, whom he tries to develop a friendship with, to get credit score and royalties. The different businessmen, like Robert (Jones) and the billionaire Maxwells (Roger Allam performs shady patriarch Robert and Anthony Boyle is his thin-skinned son, Kevin), couldn’t care much less concerning the inventor.

When Henk lands in Russia, he discovers a system unsympathetic to his Western beliefs, and much more vultures. There’s Nikolai Belikov (Oleg Stefan), the supervisor of Alexey’s firm, whose motivations boil right down to getting the perfect deal for the Soviet Union, or so he says. And corrupt KGB officer Valentin Trifonov (Igor Grabuzov) needs to safe a private security web earlier than the present regime topples. As the cadre of businessmen convene in Russia (unbeknownst to one another), the stakes get increased and the ridiculousness of their conditions extra obvious, making for an entertaining sequence of occasions. Desperate makes an attempt to outbid one another land every of them in wild eventualities because the corrosive combine of cash and energy within the collapsing Soviet Union turns into clearer.

As Tetris hurtles towards its ultimate act, the movie raises extra questions on mental property, capital and who loses when greed is prioritized above all else. There’s additionally an try and punch up the thread about Henk and Alexey’s friendship — the 2 have a heart-to-heart dinner and exit dancing — although that doesn’t land as gracefully because the licensing storyline, with its extra natural-feeling twists and turns.

Tucked into the movie’s triumphant ending are traces of traces of a extra provocative thesis concerning the geopolitical panorama into which Tetris was born. Who have been the actual winners and losers of this fraught licensing battle unfolding towards the backdrop of a altering world order? With Pet Shop Boys’ “Opportunities” — a music steeped in irony — enjoying over the closing credit, I longed for a movie that leaned into complexity as a lot as sheer enjoyability.

Full credit

Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Headliners)
Distributor: Apple TV+
Production corporations: AI-Film, Apple TV+, Marv Films, Unigram
Cast: Taron Egerton, Nikita Efremov, Sofia Lebedeva, Anthony Boyle, Ben Miles, Ken Yamamura, Igor Grabuzov, Oleg Shtefanko, Ayane Nagabuchi, Rick Yune
Director: Jon S. Baird
Screenwriter: Noah Pink
Producers: Matthew Vaughn, Gillian Berrie, Claudia Vaughn, Len Blavatnik, Gregor Cameron
Executive producers: Zygi Kamasa, Carlos Peres, Iain Mackenzie, Noah Pink, Taron Egerton, Danny Cohen, Amanda Ghost, Vince Holden, Henk Rogers, Alexey Pajitnov, Maya Rogers
Cinematographer: Alwin Kuchler
Production designer: Daniel Taylor
Costume designer: Nat Turner
Editors: Martin Walsh, Colin Goudie, Ben Mills
Music: Lorne Balfe
Casting director: Lillie Jeffrey, Reg Poerscout-Edgerton

Rated R,
1 hour 58 minutes



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