Tetris perfected simplicity in video games. Captivated by a balance of suspense and distraction, players spend hours hooked to the addictive puzzle game, meticulously placing falling geometric forms, or Tetrominoes, as they fall down the screen. Every loss is another chance to reboot the game and top their high score. But our love for this simple game is preceded by its labyrinthine origin story that pulls back the Iron Curtain. That is the story director Jon S. Baird aimed to chronicle in his latest film, Tetris, but the final result lacks the charming quality of its namesake.
Tetris follows Henk Rogers, an energetic and hardheaded video game developer played by Taron Egerton. Rogers is enamored by Tetris, immediately compelled to secure the rights to the video game. But there’s one major issue: the game developer, Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov), lives in the Soviet Union, and Tetris is protected as government property. Rogers is undeterred, racing against British media magnates to secure handheld rights for Nintendo’s groundbreaking Game Boy. What ensues is a tumultuous, riveting story. However, Tetris delivers a half-baked biopic with massive potential, marred by dubious performances, whiplash-inducing transitions, and obscured plots.
Compelling storylines about Pajitnov or Tetris‘s international implications fall flat, oversimplified and suffocated by a profusion of ill-paced narratives. Creating an enthralling movie about a high-stakes legal battle on intellectual property rights is indisputably difficult, but Baird’s Tetris could learn from the video game that inspired it. The real story is interesting enough without what seems like unnecessary sensationalism. The movie’s memorable moments emerge when the film gives the actors enough time to banter or for the suspense to build behind the Iron Curtain. In the film, Rogers claims, “It’s a perfect game,” which remains largely undisputed, but it’s far from a perfect movie. R, 118 min.