The dissolution of the communist Soviet Union in the late ‘80s brought about not only a new reckoning in world order, the fall of the iron curtain, and an end to the suffering of millions of people; in a very strange and fascinating way, it also brought us the wildly popular video game, Tetris. And the new movie on Apple TV+ called Tetris tells us how all the blocks fell into place to make that happen.

The film is a fast-paced, based-on-fact account of the battle for the worldwide distribution rights to the ubiquitous video game that swept the gaming world back in the late ‘80s.

Despite its many tedious and tangled elements of international distribution channels, global intellectual property rights, and corporate contract disputes, director Jon S. Baird (Stan & Ollie), who works from a spec script by Noah Pink (The Show), manages to keep things lively and animated. With Tetris, they effectively ride that fine line between comedy, tragedy, and drama. Throw in a wonderful, all-in performance from Taron Egerton, and we have the building blocks of a bonafide hit.

"an entertaining journey of international intrigue, danger, and Cold War drama"

Egerton is Dutch/American video game developer and distributor, Henk Rogers who lives in Japan with wife, Akemi (Ayane Nagabuchi) and young daughter, Maya (Kanon Narumi). Rogers was accidentally introduced to Tetris while at a Las Vegas trade show in 1988. He immediately sees the potential of Tetris as the next big gaming sensation and sets out to acquire the licensing and distribution rights for the game.

Things get complicated, however, when Rogers courts Nintendo about its interest in distributing the game via its upcoming hand-held consoles. He discovers that the game was actually developed inside the Soviet Union by a computer programmer named Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov). But, of course, the Soviet Union claims ownership of everything invented within its borders, so… off to the communist bloc republic goes Rogers.

What follows is a tangled web of espionage, unscrupulous KGB agents, and shady deals, as Rogers soon learns that he may not be the only Westerner with eyes on cashing in on the distribution rights to the addictive game. There’s freelance entrepreneur Robert Stein (the always wonderful Toby Jones), British media mogul Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam), and his detestable son, Kevin (Anthony Boyle) who are all hoping to cash in on the 8-bit game’s potential, and are willing to go to battle for the opportunity.

Egerton is perfect in his role as the affable go-getter Rogers, giving a delightful bit of Peter Sellers nervous energy to his performance which in turn lightens up the film’s sometimes bleak and intricately detailed plotting. Toby Jones also turns in a winning performance, and even steals a scene or two in the film’s middle act.Tetris

Baird dresses up the film’s visuals with creatively-rendered 8-bit stylized title cards which separate the film’s many chapters, er levels. There’s also a blistering car chase scene through Moscow which Baird and his team of animators stylize with vehicles that turn into pixelated versions of themselves. Carrying forward the theme is Pink’s script which is broken up into levels rather than separate acts, and characters are referenced as players.

But giving the film its main thrust is the odd couple relationship developed between Rogers and the game’s inventor, Pajitnov. Two guys from different worlds and with very different personalities. Egerton and Efremov disappear into their roles and play off one another's differences nicely. The added dose of heart and humanity is a much-appreciated treat which holds this thing together.

Sometimes tedious, and often a chore to muddle through the weeds of contract talks and business ethics discussions, Tetris could have benefited from a tighter script and slightly shorter run time. Nonetheless, it is an entertaining journey of international intrigue, danger, and Cold War drama. Were it about anything other than a silly 8-bit game we’ve all played a million times, it probably wouldn’t work as well as it does.

3/5 stars

Film Details


MPAA Rating: R.
118 mins
: Jon S. Baird
Noah Pink
Taron Egerton; Toby Jones; Nikita Efremov
: Thriller | Comedy
The game you couldn't put down. The story you couldn't make up.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Good ideas have no borders."
Apple TV+
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 31, 2023
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: The story of how one of the world's most popular video games found its way to players around the globe. Businessman Henk Rogers and Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov join forces in the USSR, risking it all to bring Tetris to the masses.