Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Tetris Review

Falling into place as well as can be expected, Tetris does not quite clear its lines but makes for a solid showcase of how mad origin stories can be. Taron Egerton leads the charge after dipping his toe in television. Magnetism to Tetris as a video game, concept, and long-running creation has been correctly assessed as an addictive fascination. It has that itchy feel to it, the constant use of it comes through with this Jon S. Baird-directed feature. Henk Williams (Egerton) and his firm belief in the quality of an untried video game is a stunning role for him to return to the big screen with, but Baird, one of the most reliable and unheralded directors of his time, is a firm hand here.  

Enjoyably light and colourful, the engaging immediacy of Tetris comes from its flash colours and inevitable eight-bit styling. Player 2 and all that jazz. It makes sense at least and the consistency of these animated moments, the nostalgia that bleeds through them and the romantic chatter that surrounds a game that has been everywhere from multiplayer blasts to CollegeHumour skits, has left its impression on culture. But Tetris manages to balance the curve and stigma that comes from adapting video games to the big screen by implementing heavy-hitting names Toby Jones and Roger Allam, along with an apt re-telling of the history behind a game. Europe’s The Final Countdown splattering trailer after trailer was unconvincing, but the tale of Tetris and the commitment within is striking, engaging and ultimately fun.  

Flashy and bright is the key to this one, and while Tetris has much of that, Egerton and his return to quality filmmaking are convincing and exciting. Jones, Egerton, Anthony Boyle and Allam make for a stunning four-piece in the stuffy offices of the Daily Mirror. Smoke-clad offices and a real sense of place from scene to scene give Tetris a vibrancy that it clings to for dear life. Rightly so, it is the bright spark that keeps burning away as Baird bleeds his fine directing qualities in with a nostalgic feeling. Key to all of this is the ability and confidence Baird has behind the camera in keeping the feature rolling, in keeping the record scratch moments away and in building a Soviet-era suspicion that relays webs of lies and intrigue as though it were a spy thriller. It is wild and maddening just how close Tetris is to just that.  

Some of the most fun to be had with cinema this year is Tetris, a sleek and well-paced piece of history in motion. Nicely paced and layering its characters well, Tetris has an immediacy, a rare quality that feels somewhat lost in many modern movie experiences. Its urgency, its need to detail a story and the frequency of its interactions make for a wild and intensely engaged time. Maintaining such strong momentum, featuring some fine performances from fresh faces and firm hands, Tetris is a booming biopic that holds all the usual video game historic for those interested, but the sleeper spy hits that play underneath the surface are of natural, impressive and exciting quality. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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