Despite a lot of exaggerated moments about how the Tetris licence is acquired, this historical thriller is very exciting to watch. If only more semi-biographical works were like this, I wouldn’t need to consult the huge book library I have concerning the golden era of video games.
Anyone can go online to learn how this game was invented. It’s nicely summarised in this film, but to dramatise the legal problems to the level that director Jon S. Baird stylises it as requires more than an intimate knowledge of all that went on. Noah Pink wrote a script that chronicles the events leading up to the discovery of a simple but addictive puzzle game. What he adds includes how Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) is feeling the pressure. He’s a family man who wants to succeed as a business manager. This subplot shows everything he’s willing to sacrifice.
There’s also a bit of a story concerning Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov), a humble software engineer who’s feeling the pressure. We don’t get a lot of stories here, but it sets the stage for another theme–to witness the drama of a crumbling nation. While some Russians are keen to just treat life normally, others are wrangling a deal to help them survive when the wall comes down.
Meanwhile, even Robert (Roger Allam) and son Kevin Maxwell (Anthony Boyle) are having issues. The young business executive isn’t aware of the corruption; I’d say he’d put the Kingpin from the Spider-Man comics to shame. Allam is perfect in this villainous role.
In how it all comes together is a melting pot which must be stirred in Soviet space. Nobody in America knows who truly owns Tetris. Anyone who understands how Communism works will say the profits are supposed to be shared evenly, and that’s where the Maxwell subplot gains traction. The parallelisms going on are nearly everywhere!
In between the transitions to each tale are many wonderful 8 bit renders of the landscapes used and the key players. There’s also nods to other video games (where appropriate); we see Zelda and Mario to let us know Nintendo genuinely wants the handheld rights. That way, Tetris can come installed in every Game Boy sold. The release might not have been successful. Even the soundtrack brings on the memories and when Europe’s The Final Countdown is used, another message is made abundently clear.
As everyone is trying to get Nikolai Belikov (Oleg Stefan), the CEO of ELORG, to sign over rights, nobody is caring enough to befriend Alexey. Even the boss wanted his opinion before proceeding. Watchdog. The theme of showing how greed is rampant, and I can’t wait to see who will fail in this chase.
Meanwhile, the KGB is monitoring the entire operation. Although this aspect is regarded as fiction, what’s upped here only adds to the tension that must be kept going during the film. Just how it’s developed is much like the Tetris game itself. As it gets harder, the music and speed gets faster! We also see how this takes place as the USSR is crumbling, and although not every historical detail is right, that’s okay since it’s about how to succeed when not everything is piling up right in Henk’s favour.
5 Stars out of 5