“I played Tetris for five minutes. I still see falling blocks in my dreams.”Henk Rogers
Adapting the wrangling over licensing rights of the universally beloved Tetris into a (heavily embelished) cold war espionage thriller is an unexpected yet intriguing choice that still pays homage to designer Alexey Pajitnov and the beautiful simplicity of the game. Egerton leads the cast as the bombastic Henk, an endearing entrepreneurial Dutch-American hustler, determined but baffled by the Soviet Union and guileless to its danger, contrasted by Nikita Efremov’s understated Alexey, a thoughtful idealist (“Good ideas have no borders”). Director Jon S. Baird isn’t able to replicate the emotional resonance of Stan & Ollie in the friendship between Henk and Alexey (everything rattles along too swiftly for that), but he introduces some fun stylistic flourishes with pixel art transitions and a car chase where collisions billow a flurry of pixels — this is a rare occasion when greater use of the gimmick would have been welcome. Soviet bureaucracy provides plenty of fodder for farce (perfectly demonstrated in The Death of Stalin), with officials marching between simultaneous negotiations in separate rooms, whilst the Union’s imminent downfall split those who wanted the best for their country and those who prioritised personal profit before the collapse. Presenting all of this together leads to a tonal disonnance at times, coupled with pacing issues that drag. The performances (with ever reliable character actors like Toby Jones and Roger Allam) nevertheless keep in motion this exuberant tale of falling blocks in a falling bloc.