Tetris SXSW Review

March 31, 202360/1006 min
Taron Egerton, Toby Jones, Sofya Lebedeva, Ben Miles
Written by
Noah Pink
Directed by
Jon S. Baird
Run Time
Release Date
March 31st, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

              It feels just like yesterday that everyone I knew had a Gameboy and was spending hours and AA batteries playing Tetris. Of course it was almost thirty-five years ago,  but as someone said thirty-seven years ago: “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once a while, you could miss it.” One could compare that with Tetris, when those shapes almost get to the top, and your game is the thing that is running out. Tetris was king, but what is even better than playing Tetris? Learning how it got into all of our hands to begin with.

Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) is an owner of a software company and the game he helped develop is not doing as well as he hoped. It is while showing off his one game at the Consumer Electronic Show, that he comes across a game where you have to put some shapes in a certain order to create a straight line. Henk can see the possibilities and at the show secures rights for console and arcade units in Japan. He secures more money from the bank, where he bets everything, that Tetris is going to be huge. Others have taken notice, and Nintendo and wants to talk to him about putting the game on their new hand held device that is about to come out. Henk though has to acquire rights and to do so he must travel to the U.S.S.R. Once there he finds out that he does not have the rights for Japan after all, but neither does anyone else. That starts off an entirely different game, one where lives and money are at stake, all for the rights for a game that will change gaming forever.

Written by Noah Pink, Tetris has the challenge of making business talk sound entertaining, something it finds a way to do. Pink’s dialogue is sharp, all which is delivered by Egerton in a perfect fast pace. The story is told in levels (heh-heh), where you can guess that ultimately Henk Rogers is able to level up and achieve his goal. Of course we know that already, it’s how he got there that is the fascinating part that, and director Jon S. Baird makes it pretty damn fun. Baird uses transiting shots that pay perfect homage to the game, taking us at times to that magical 8-bit world and also manages to inject some style in the film.

Tetris is a fun film, with also some promising tension that feels like the right way to tell this story. Egerton as Rodgers proves he can carry a movie, but the rest of the cast, that includes Toby Jones and Nikita Efemov, to name a few, only add to the experience. Tetris also taps into the late 1980’s nostalgia, with a killer soundtrack, including the perfectly used  Holding Out for a Hero, by Bonnie Tyler, as well as a nifty history lesson. Although it is based on a true story, the film is not afraid of embracing some absurdity, but still manages to convey the dangers of the time as well.  Tetris in the end pulls off what it wanted to do, which was to get this story out there, all in a fun and entertaining way, while also making you want to find away to go back to one of the most addicting games ever made.

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