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Tetris SXSW Review: An Entertaining Stranger Than Fiction Biopic


These days, they’ll make a biopic about anyone that does something notable, but there’s something truly unique about the story of the minds behind Tetris — Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov — that it becomes an almost immediate crowd-pleaser. Not all of its ambitious swings are hits, but there are still plenty of great things that really work here.

The film tells the stranger-than-fiction story of how the video game Tetris became such a massive global phenomenon, as a businessman risks his life by entering the USSR in a bid to secure the IP rights of the game. On paper, one might not think that the creation of the block-stacking video game would make for an interesting biopic, but there is so much more to it than that.

Noah Pink’s script gives the audience several points of contact designed to help us connect with the character more easily, but many of them feel underdeveloped. In fact, the only emotional thread that feels satisfying is the friendship between Rogers and Pajitnov, and even that takes a bit too long to get going.

Taron Egerton, Sofia Lebedeva and Nikita Efremov in “Tetris,” premiering March 31, 2023 on Apple TV+.

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One of the main things that allows this movie to stand out is its unorthodox approach to the biopic genre. Many have attempted comparisons to films like The Social Network, but Rogers’s story is so exciting that it ends up playing out in a way that feels like an espionage thriller, which is likely not what most viewers are expecting at all.

Jon S. Baird does a great job of infusing his filmmaking style with the same level of energy as the narrative. The soundtrack is excellent, highlighted by Russian language covers of pop hits from the 1980s. However, even more distinctive is the movie’s use of 8-bit style animated sequences to fill in some of the gaps playfully.


Togo Igawa, Nino Furuhata and Taron Egerton in “Tetris,” premiering March 31, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Taron Egerton’s performance in the leading role is extraordinary (as if he has given a turn that is anything else in recent years). He perfectly captures the subject’s eccentric and stubborn personality — described as “cowboy-like” in the film. It’s equal parts charming, humorous, and compelling, with a dash of troubling that heightens the stakes and tension.

Egerton is basically acting circles around everyone else. Although some of the other actors get brief moments to shine, Egerton has such a commanding screen presence — particularly in this role — that he manages to consistently steal other people’s thunder. Anthony Boyle is pretty enjoyable to watch as the entitled antagonist, but still doesn’t hold a candle to Egerton.

There is no denying how enjoyable Tetris is, and while it’s not a revolutionary movie, the ways in which it twists the tropes are mostly very interesting. Taron Egerton’s casting in the lead role is pitch-perfect and makes the film even more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been.

Tetris screened at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, TX.

Rating: 8/10

Like a Dragon: Ishin

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.