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Tetris
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[SXSW ‘23] ‘Tetris’ review: Taron Egerton shines in exciting retro thriller

A great cast bolsters a twisty story.

You’ve probably never asked yourself about the popularity of Tetris, the puzzle video game. Even if you’ve never played Tetris, you’ve definitely seen it if you’ve ever been to an arcade. It’s one of the best-selling video games of all time, and it is timeless in its simplicity. It’s a great game, no question about it. I can play Tetris and have that mind-numbing music on loop in my head for hours. And yet, I’d never thought about how this Russian game came to be so popular all over the world. 

Tetris opens with the familiar theme music and a flashy Las Vegas showroom. Henk Rogers (a mustached Taron Egerton) is trying to sell his video game iteration of the Chinese game “Go”, with little success. Here, he discovers Tetris, and sees an opportunity. Henk is a video game designer and salesman, Dutch/American in heritage though living in Japan. Over the next two hours, we’ll travel practically all over the world with Henk. Tetris uses 8-bit graphic title cards to transition between scenes and locations, and though it’s slightly gimmicky, it works really well to keep up the films sense of humor. 

As Henk eventually finds himself in the Soviet Union, the intrigue and corporate espionage layer of the story begin to settle in. This isn’t just the story of the man who invented Tetris (Alexey Pajitnov) and the man who made it popular — it’s also a story about the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and commerce between America, Japan, the UK, and the USSR. Tetris manages to keep this story fun and engaging, and this is largely due to the performances. While all of the performances in Tetris are great — the cast features greats like Toby Jones, Ben Miles, and Togo Igawa — Taron Egerton’s performance is excellent. 

We see Henk Rogers not only as the entrepreneur who sees opportunity and wants to make money and find success in the video game industry, but also as a father and husband. Nothing about his plan to sell Tetris goes as planned, and he finds himself far in over his head. Egerton displays great range within this performance, and his ability to morph into this salesman is impressive. Tetris twists and turns and has a few unexpected surprises. It’s a great spin on your typical corporate-espionage thriller, and a fast-paced gem of a film at this years SXSW.

Tetris makes its world premiere at SXSW ‘23. 

 

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