It’s simple, yet addictive. You watch the pieces fall and race to line them up, filling and clearing rows as you go. It’s Tetris, and by now most people have played it in some form. It’s a game that’s been popular for more than 30 years but the story of how it came to be widely played is perhaps even more fascinating.
The latest film from Apple TV+ is the true story of the battle to acquire the rights to bring Tetris to the world after it originated in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The story involves intrigue, dueling offers, bribery and plenty of danger as business interests from the west flocked to Moscow to make a deal.
At the center of the story is video game designer Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton), who sees and plays Tetris at a Video Game convention in Las Vegas. He’s there to sell his own game but, instead, sees an opportunity. He snatches up the game rights in Japan and sets out making a deal with Nintendo.
With the video game giant on the verge of a breakthrough in technology, they are seeking expanded rights. With his future and his family’s future on the line, Rogers heads to Russia. There he forms a friendship with Tetris designer Alexey (Nikita Efremov) and maneuvers to make a deal that will change his fortune and the video game business forever.
This film takes the action back to the late 1980s and chronicles the wild and true story. Director Jon S. Baird does a nice job bringing the story to life. I enjoyed the period flourishes and the mixture of a video game look. That includes the way the story is laid out by Noah Pink, setting out a main character and levels to complete in order to win the game. All that added nicely to the theme and served as a solid framing device.
Additionally, Egerton does a great job in the lead role. He’s the hook that holds the story together. At times it feels like a spy drama, at times something of a buddy film. It consistently holds your attention, pulling you into the story, the characters and the world. I loved the way it came together and I was fascinated to learn more about the wild backstory behind a game I’ve played and enjoyed for years.
Apple TV+ has a winner with Tetris, one of their better original films and one of the better films I’ve seen so far in 2023. Tetris streams March 31 on Apple TV+.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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