Taron Egerton has made a name for himself as a wonderfully grounded actor, who is able to bring a little bit of starpower but also heaps of gravitas to any character. From Robin Hood to Kingsman’s Eggsy, Egerton has impressed audiences and critics alike. But now comes his biggest challenge; can he pull off a big, 80s-style moustache and boxy suits as Henk Rogers?
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, we don’t blame you, but perhaps this one will: Tetris. Tetris might just be the most well-known and probably one of the most-played video games. The deceivingly simple puzzle game has fascinated the world since 1984, but very few, myself included, know how the game came to be.
Turns out there’s a captivating story behind Tetris, which was created by Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian software engineer. Tetris quickly made its way outside of the Soviet Union, which ignited a heated dispute and fight for the distribution rights to the game.
Henk Rogers was one of the men fighting for the rights to distribute the game, ultimately teaming up with Nintendo. Rogers travelled to the Soviet Union, which was on the brink of collapse, to negotiate the terms, but found himself in the middle of a fierce, potentially dangerous bidding war.
Director Jon S. Baird (Filth, Stan & Ollie) and writer Noah Pink can’t be accused of taking the easy way out of Tetris. The film is as much about the fall of communism as it is about the titular video game, with a bit of family drama added in. It makes for a riveting watch.
There are more double-crossings in Tetris than in Wild Things and any play about Julius Caesar combined. Tetris, while humorous and warm at times, plays out like a thriller. There are shady meetings, double agents and poor Henk is desperately out of his league. There’s even a fast-paced car chase, set to Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero.
Egerton is a compelling lead. It’s a performance completely void of ego; Henk is almost an understated protagonist, not the usual American hero we’re used to seeing on the big screen. Sure, he gets a few poignant scenes, but there are no long monologues and impassioned speeches, that always ring a little false, to be found in Tetris.
Nikita Efremov is also subtly emotive and compassionate as Pajitnov. While the film turns into a bit of a sausage fest, Sofya Lebedeva is more than capable of holding her own against all the male key players here. Her character Sasha, an interpreter for Henk, is a mysterious addition to the film where everyone seems to be harbouring some personal motive to be involved in the negotiations. Anthony Boyle, as Kevin Maxwell, son of media tycoon Robert Maxwell, is also a highlight.
Tetris is telling a huge story, arguably a bigger one than it can handle. Baird rushes through a lot of the character introductions and we never learn much about Henk’s personal life or his personal history. Thankfully, Egerton’s nuanced performance patches up any holes in the script.
Tetris tells a fascinating true story that is so much more than the film’s name would suggest. The world’s current political climate and the Russia-Ukraine conflict also make us view Tetris from a completely different lens and, by coincidence, gives the film a lot of nuance.
Tetris is streaming on AppleTV+ 31 March.