The 80s was a decade that brought a lot of fun and entertainment to the masses in the form of movies, music, and yes video games. The console wars were in full swing in the 80s. Atari, Sega, and the big boy on the block Nintendo battled for all the dollars from families all around the world. One of the games that had a huge bidding war for it was Tetris. Yes, that game where the blocks drop down and you fill in the bottom on the screen. I know what you are thinking, why would anybody want to bid on this simple little game? Because it became one of the most lucrative games of all time. The simplest ideas are sometimes the best ideas. And that is the case here.
Hank Rogers (Taren Egerton) is a game software designer and salesman. He is selling his own game at a convention in Las Vegas. While there he notices another salesman selling another game called Tetris and he agrees to buy the rights to video games in Japan. Little does he know that the right to this game are tied up with other various individuals. To be honest these rights are complicated at best. Another game designer Robert Stein (Tobey Jones) owns home computer rights and a billionaire Robert Maxwell (Roger Allan) owns other rights, but this is a ruse because the real rights remain with the company ELORG and the creator which are both in RUSSIA. Which is in the middle of the cold war with the United States.
The film uses a few methods to tell its story. One of the cool ways it tells this wacky story is by using video game graphics to divide the chapters and designate the main characters as players. Trying it into the overall concept of the 8-bit video games of this era of the 80s. Going from Level to Level as you do in Tetris. Even when the location changes they use this style to show locations and fly from country to country, mostly from America to RUSSIA. These aspects of the film are quite interesting. They go perfectly with this story that is all about the world of games in this decade.
A few other aspects of the story are the way the film uses editing and cuts back and forth between multiple scenes or multiple characters trying to get the rights to this game. There is a level of comedy here that is genuinely funny. Also, a framing device at the beginning of the movie shows what kind of film this was going to be. The main thing that makes this work though is the time period it takes place. The 80s are such a tongue-in-cheek decade and the hair and clothes were something a lot of people make fun of today. Video games were a big part of this decade and their weird style and nature.
Taron Edgerton made a name for himself back in the mid-2000s playing Eggsy in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Ever since he’s portrayed Elton John in Rocketman, Robin Hood, and a Singing Gorilla in Sing 1 & 2. His role in Black Bird the mini-series on Apple tv Plus where he played an undercover innate trying to convince another inmate to confess to a bunch of murders was a career turn for him. He was great in the role and it gathered him critical acclaim. His role in Tetris is on another level though. He plays into the comedy aspects of the story while also being very dramatic and heartfelt at times. He truly cares about what he’s doing in the film. This movie succeeds because of Edgerton’s dedication to the material and his character.
As a child of the 80s, I truly know how wacky and weird this decade was. The cold war was a forgotten thing to most people I knew until the wall came down between Eastern and Western Germany. That was when communism as we knew it was truly over. That being said RUSSIA had a reputation for being very evil and dark, similar to the empire in Star Wars. How these people were portrayed in the movie was on point in how I and those that I knew regarded these people. The treatment of creativity and ownership was appalling to me. How nobody could have creative freedom was so very sad. One character, in particular, was the RUSSIAN creator of the game Tetris and he was like a third-class citizen. It was downright awful.
How all the pieces came together to create such an enjoyable ride of a film is owed to the director, Jon S. Baird, and the screenwriter, Noah Pink, for putting all of these elements together. The production design was amazing. Making the RUSSIAN scenes look like buildings you would find over there was incredible. The hair and makeup team and costumes department also did a stellar job of making everybody look so authentic for the time. The 80s as I said had their distinctive style. Last but not least is the music department. They got some iconic songs of the era for the film such as The Final Countdown and RUSSIAN versions of other famous songs
Tetris is the story of a little video game that had a story that was much bigger than anyone could have imagined. All the various characters played their parts to make this a brilliant film at times. Mixing in a bit of nostalgia and comedy created a nice blend of entertainment. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be praising a movie about Tetris but I am. These types of behind-the-scenes stories have been coming out more and more lately and I have been enjoying them thoroughly. They bring me back to when I was a child when times were different and everything had its own story, even Tetris. This is a fantastic trip down nostalgia lane once again for me.
4 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen
Tetris is streaming on Apple tv Plus on March 31st