The Conservative Critic
How on earth is a movie about Tetris actually great?
Last week Apple TV released their newest film starring Taron Egerton (Rocketman, The Kingsman) as the businessman who brought Tetrist to the world. Sounds pretty boring and unasked for right? And yet somehow it was actually pretty great.
What made this unlikely story such a good watch? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Tetris
Overall Rating: Really Great
Tetris made for a great flick for several reasons, not least of which is that the story of its origins is not very well known. Most Americans and movie watchers around the world are familiar with the beloved game of falling blocks but not many of us have considered where the game came from (or really, where any game comes from). As it turns out, the story of the game Tetris is an insane one full of political intrigue, corruption, and death defying acts of bravery starring a Dutchman in Japan and the KGB. Tetris the film perfectly captures and magnifies this tale engaging the viewer through all the twists and turns but also in that – most viewers have no idea how it all turns out except that eventually Tetris was sold globally.
Overall, the film is a fun watch, includes strong performances that overshadow the clunky plot tools and is super pro-capitalism.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Lots of twists and intrigue
The story plays out almost as a drama of errors (I made this term up) where there are so many players making so many off-screen deals and plays that the surprises and mishaps and allegiances are every shifting almost like a comedic farce (but with life on the line). The KGB is in control of Tetris and a myriad of global business players including the plucky lead Henk Rogers played by Egerton are trying to get it out. Just when viewers think they know what’s going on, they’re surprised with a new angle. Not only does the story feature surprises but also the motives and alliances of the characters are ever shifting. There’s double crossing and triple crossing and even a fourth level of crossing yet undefined (double double crossing?).
As a political thriller, Tetris does it’s job with only a bit of slowness as the story is being set up.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Educational and well performed
Tetris has a stellar cast who all delivered in spades. A mustachioed Egerton is completely believable as an eager salesman looking for his big break and naively brazen in his lack of fear of the consequences of dealing with the KGB. Toby Jones (Captain America) as a questionable businessman with an ax to grind brings loads of credibility to the cast and Rick Yune (The Fast and the Furious) as a skeptical bank lender is an extremely believable skeptic and critical to the plot despite remaining nameless for the entire story. Yune’s performance is a masterclass in “no small parts.”
The composition of Tetris was interesting and cute, weaving in old school gaming graphics with traditional “thriller” cinematography. The primary drawback of the overall filmmaking was the necessity of heavy narration. Because the story is so complicated, the writers left in quite a bit of exposition which was delivered by having Henk retell a lot of history to the bank manager who he is asking for a loan. Exposition is a plot tool and it’s a lazy one and there is no getting around it. However, the performances save the film from the expository monologues for the most part and they don’t seem quite as clunky as they really are. Storytelling should be done without heavy verbal explanations.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Very pro-capitalism
One of the best highlights of the film is how pro-capitalism it is. At every turn, money wins and money motivates. Even as the KGB claims to be protecting its communist agenda they openly admit to playing the capitalist game in order to benefit the Soviet Union the most. There is no apology for profit and no apology for American style money making.
The film dips into the notion of agency which is core to beliefs on liberty. The man who invented the game has no entitlement to profits earned by the Soviet Union because in communist and socialist nations, individuals are not their own agents meaning the financial product of their labor is not their own to keep. The film celebrates that in a capitalist system, an individual can earn their own wealth as their own agent when they have a good idea or they work hard.
Overall, Tetris is a great and surprisingly fun movie that The Conservative Critic recommends to watch.