Apple TV+'s Tetris Review: Who Knew That A Taron Egerton Biopic Could Make Intellectual Property Rights So Thrilling?

The Taron Egerton-led biopic could be the best video game movie ever.

Taron Egerton and Nikita Efremov gathered together around a computer in Tetris.
(Image: © Apple TV+)

As a game, Tetris is a pretty simple concept that eventually becomes deceptively complex with each new level. The center of a craze that swept the world in the early days of video games, its not exactly a narrative driven experience – unless you count the turmoil felt by the most intense players. Conversely, the story behind programmer Alexey Pajitnov’s creation and its journey to the West is indeed a story worth telling, provided you have the right approach.


Taron Egerton in Tetris

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Release Date: March 31, 2023
Directed By: Jon S. Baird
Written By: Noah Pink
Starring: Taron Egerton, Nikita Efremov, Sofia Lebedeva, Anthony Boyle, and Toby Jones
Rating: R for Language
Runtime: 118 minutes

The team behind the Apple original film named after its subject have cracked that concept. Through flashy presentation, as well as reverent and appropriate beats of nostalgia, director Jon S. Baird's Tetris turns a story of intellectual property rights and political bureaucracy into an intense and unexpectedly thrilling cinematic experience. Perhaps the most unexpected success is that one could also claim it to be the best video game movie ever. 

Focused on the battle that raged for the publishing rights to Tetris, the narrative centers around Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton), one of many businessmen who held various claims of ownership to the hit game. His story involves various operatives in business and politics struggling to score a victory that could make or break the numerous companies involved. While there’s some added drama thrown in to enhance this tale for entertainment purposes, the end result is still a stranger-than-fiction tale that will please fans of the game while being well-told history.

Tetris hits the ground running, consistently maintaining a relentless pace from start to finish.

It’s rare for any movie to be able to finish as briskly and brightly as it starts. So being able to say that Tetris does just that is amazing for several reasons. Most blockbusters wish they could move with this much energy from top to bottom, especially one where there’s only one real sequence that could be considered a “set piece.”

Applying that logic to a historical biopic is another outlier that this picture is able to lay claim to, as that sort of pacing isn’t exactly something that one would expect from many true stories. That goes double for a movie like Tetris where the central stakes are focused on publishing rights and all of the monetary strings that come with them. On paper, that’s about as interesting as a weather forecast brought to life. 

And yet writer Noah Pink’s screenplay takes the story of everyone who thought they owned Tetris, and boils it down to an easy to follow chain of events. Exposition is delivered through Taron Egerton monologues and accompanying 8-bit graphics that spice up the visual presentation. In a movie where video game rights are, in practice, the “game” being played, that visual device comes in handy quite often to spruce up the real world stakes.

Adrenaline, bureaucracy, and friendship combine to make for an electrifying rush that surprisingly captures the spirit of Tetris itself.

The game of Tetris can be summed up in a very short statement: make all the pieces you’re given fit into the puzzle before you. No matter which version or game mode of this Russian electronic marvel you’ve played, that adage applies. It could also double as a plot synopsis for this very movie, as it doesn’t take much imagination to see the events unfolding as a real-life version of the game.

Bureaucracy lies at the heart of everything in Tetris, with Henk Rogers acting as the vessel for the audience to experience these events. Thanks to Taron Egerton’s take on Rogers, we’re given someone to root for, even at his lowest points. By being able to buy into Henk’s love of Tetris, we’re given a living, breathing take on the contractual drama. Unlike most biopics, where the subject’s relevance is usually driven by some solemn purpose to better the world, the movie's epic quest is bringing an entertaining pastime to the world and doing so legally.

That’s where the other two components come in, as the eventual friendship between Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) adds adrenaline to the rising stakes. Weaving in the politics that foreshadowed the fall of the Soviet Union, desperation closes in on all fronts of Tetris’ metaphorical game.

This human toll also helps Tetris break from the mold of the typical biopic, as death threats, bankruptcy, and politicking all factor into this seemingly unimportant milestone in history. It’s what drives moments like a car chase embellished with 8-bit touches, set to a Russian language cover of “I Need A Hero” to become fitting tributes to both the story and the era it’s set against. The history of Tetris isn't just arguing in front of flags and board rooms; it's also petty fistfights, pretentious egos, and high speed pursuits. Staying true to the history, while adding such flourishes, is an important distinction from this saga's would-be competition.

Tetris is a flashy biopic that embraces nostalgia as a plot driver, breaking from formulas to delight audiences with an absurdly true story.

Tetris, like its subject matter, is easy to understand, and exciting to master. Personally speaking, I'm predisposed to enjoy a biopic that counts a Kingsman, two Speed Racer alums, and a James Bond henchman in its cast, and that lineup surely does amp up the excitement. But beyond the expertly assembled ensemble, the storytelling of this Apple original film offers another brilliant touch: it embraces nostalgia as a plot driver rather than a shortcut to emotional investment. 

All of the video game inspired transitions and era appropriate needle drops, as well as a scene involving a group sing-along to Europe’s “The Final Countdown” serve a message that’s delivered in one line: “Good ideas have no borders.” Geopolitics and corporate wrangling aside, the game of Tetris and a movie covering its history are both fantastic ideas that overcame the limitations that were present at their inception.

Already one of the most entertaining movies of the year, Tetris should serve as another example of true stories finding vibrant life at the movies. No matter what sort of obscure historical happenings a  filmmaker may want to cover, the power of a good hook and inventive presentation can make what looks like a boring slog into a jet fueled race to the finish. Whether you were around to see it happen in real time, or want to introduce this still popular craze to younger generations, Tetris is a well-played game of historical fact and amusing fictional touches. It’ll also help you better appreciate the game on several levels. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.