Alex Reviews "Tetris"
From the moment Nintendo’s version of “Korobeiniki” starts playing, everyone who has ever picked up a video game is likely to have the same reaction: “That’s Tetris!” Director Jon S. Baird and writer Noah Pink have brought its story of a global phenomenon that almost never happened if not for the efforts of Henk Rogers acquiring its rights for Japan’s largest gaming company behind the Iron Curtain of Soviet Russia with Tetris.
Taron Egerton stars as Rogers, the businessman/programmer who cannot seem to get his company, Bullet-Proof Software, to the level that would set up his family in comfort for the foreseeable future until a chance meeting at an electronics show introduces him to what would become the most widely played video game of all time. It is impossible not to feel a connection to Rogers and root for him even though we know how the story ends as Egerton perfectly conveys a conduit for every emotion from rooting for him as an underdog to the sadness for his misguided moments. His personality within the story provides a performance where a less captivating actor would not be able to make this film succeed.
If Egerton is the centerpiece for this cast, the collective of Russian operatives, British billionaires, Nintendo executives, and Alexey Pajitnov create an insane balancing act akin to the best spy thrillers out there. Most notably the scary-accurate portrayal of Robert Maxwell by Roger Allam, who takes such an unlikeable real-life villain and delivers him in such a way that I never quite knew how to feel about him until the most critical moment of reveal. Furthering that portrayal pairs him up with Anthony Boyle as Kevin Maxwell, who takes a very straightforward character seen millions of times and still makes him loath-able at every opportunity.
The counterbalance of thee Maxwells is the subdued yet powerful performance by Nikita Efremov in his first property outside of Russia as the heartbeat of Tetris outside of Rogers’ family, Alexey Pajitnov. A creator in a world that punishes creativity and a devoted man who is truly good even in the face of abject horror presented by a corrupt government, his ability to convey emotions with minimal dialogue was a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to this film opening doors for him into western film.
Even given how good this cast is, none of these performances work without a compelling story, and the duo of Baird and Pink craft an exciting narrative that never let me in completely until it absolutely meant to do so with multiple moments that made me question who the hero could trust while showing other individuals that should be feared.
The only gripe I could take with Tetris is actually something I enjoyed initially. The extensive use of dot matrix animation or pixel art used for a number of cuts loses some of its novelty because of both excessive use and redundancy. However, I did love the use of this animation style in some places where it might have been a clever trick to cover scenes where visual effects might have been more expensive or just badly done, evidenced in multiple green screen shots that would suggest it is the latter. There are even driving scenes that reminded me of early Hollywood and its strange backgrounds as well.
A film’s score is not usually something I recognize in my reviews, but Lorne Balfe and the music department make auditory magic in Tetris from the regional tones to the awesome ‘80s tracks, blending just enough of Nintendo’s Tetris themes into the rest of the audio is a master stroke. Remember that this is the composer of The Dark Knight, so there really should be a level of expectation, but it is still awesome throughout and even takes on greater meaning within scenes when directly highlighted.
While I doubt Tetris will win many awards or be regarded as a masterpiece for later generations to study, it is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in 2023 and I look forward to rewatching it multiple times on Apple TV+.