Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 57 minutes, Director – Jon S. Baird
Struggling businessman Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) believes that his fortunes may be turned if he’s able to gain the rights to bring a new Soviet video game called Tetris to the world.
Some form of Tetris-related film has been in the works for a number of years now. For some reason or another the blockbusters based on the iconic video game have never quite made it to the screen, however the story of how the game was brought to the world has arrived in the form of, well, Tetris. Following businessman Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) attempting to get the rights to the game, against a number of major figures including billionaire Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam) and son Kevin (Anthony Boyle), from Soviet officials.
The film may begin with ten minutes detailing a brief history of Tetris, however once properly caught up with how the game came to be it’s not long until Henk makes it to the USSR to make the business deal of a lifetime. “I played Tetris for five minutes, I still see falling blocks in my dreams” he tells his bank manager (Rick Yune) at the start of the film when asking for a loan. Rogers has been struggling with money after the failure of his video game version of board game Go, but he truly believes that Tetris will be the next big thing. He may state his passion a handful of times in these opening stages, however once we reach Moscow things fade to focus on the new, cold environment. The detail is very much on the tight-lipped Soviets who hold the rights to the game and the eventual battle for the various unclear rights to the distribute the game in various forms around the world.
Yet, the style and tone which comes into play, which admittedly has a layer of tension in some instances, gradually fades as it becomes clear that this is a film about video game rights. There may be engagement in the drama, helped by Egerton’s lead performance, but it’s not always anything you can be completely caught up in. It often feels as if the location is being used as something to lift up and push the drama rather than acting as the backdrop and occasional context for mild tension. Therefore when reaching the second hour there’s a feeling that the film starts to somewhat lost itself as the narrative takes a bigger step in front of the style, with a lot more back and forth and crossed wires for each key player in the game; much of which is backed by multiple variations of the Tetris theme, also dying down in the second half.
Things remain generally watchable, however there’s not overly anything gripping about the film. An unexpected car chase, which feels tonally different to everything which comes before it, strikes a strange yet effective chord but as a whole the film moves along with enough to keep you in place for two hours and gets out just before you properly feel the run-time. There are plenty of likable elements about it, including Egerton’s aforementioned performance, and as a whole the film keeps its head above water, but it never quite manages to make for the truly tense drama that it seems to want to be.
Occasionally allowing its location to lead over its narrative Tetris is a watchable drama helped by the lead performance of Taron Egerton, however it eventually boils down to the fact that its a film about video game rights. Fine but not always thrilling.