Tetris Parent Guide
This is less a story about a video game and more of a cold war thriller.
Parent Movie Review
When Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) sees a computer game featuring falling colored shapes at a conference, he’s immediately hooked. The Dutch-born American game developer is married to a Japanese woman (Ayana Nagabuchi) and runs a video game development company in Tokyo. Convinced that the game, called Tetris, is a winner, Rogers buys the Japanese rights and persuades Nintendo to come on board. After Nintendo gives him an early glimpse of their upcoming Game Boy, Rogers determines to obtain Tetris’s global handheld rights. There’s just one problem: the game was developed by a Russian computer programmer and those rights are going to be hard to get.
It’s 1988 and the Soviet Union is in its death throes. The country is still mired in a rigid, authoritarian anti-capitalist structure, but citizens are aware that the system is collapsing and some at the top are determined to seize as much wealth as they can before they lose power. Thus, Rogers arrives in Moscow only to discover that negotiating with game developer Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) and his employer ELORG is the least of his problems. There are unethical British billionaires, Robert and Kevin Maxwell (Roger Allam and Anthony Boyle), to contend with as well as a dodgy game promoter, Robert Stein (Toby Jones), and a deeply corrupt Soviet official, Valentin Trifonov (Igor Grabuzov). Rogers has no idea what he’s up against, but he has a passion for the game and a determination to do the right thing. But will that be enough in a brutal state that’s spinning out of control?
Tetris is less a movie about video games than it is a cold war thriller. It often feels like a spy movie and director Noah Pink does a great job of keeping the tension high throughout the runtime. Backgrounds are suitably gray, Russians are appropriately cowed, and the villains are dependably loathsome. It’s easy to cheer for Rogers, even when you forget that this isn’t national security at stake. It’s just money – but boy, is there a lot of it involved.
There’s also a lot of profanity in the film, which is unfortunate because it pushes Tetris firmly into Restricted territory. Twenty-five sexual expletives make the movie unsuitable for families, but other minor content is minimal. On the flip side, the story encourages persistence, courage, friendship, loyalty, and dogged determination. The resolution offers satisfying karma as virtue is rewarded and vice suitably punished – almost impossible to believe in the story’s historical context, but surprisingly true.
Given the breadth of its story, Tetris is bound to appeal to a range of viewers. Fans of video games will enjoy the nostalgia of seeing old versions of Super Mario games and the original Game Boy. They will also appreciate the video game graphics that move the film from scene to scene. Moviegoers who enjoy espionage thrillers will get a kick out of this tense story and the unusual plot playing out amidst familiar Soviet tropes.
I have never been a fan of video games – with the exception of Tetris. When my husband installed it on our home computer, I played obsessively, winding up with a stubborn case of tendinitis. I uninstalled the game and have never played again. Frankly, with a movie this exciting, I don’t need the game. Just my remote control and some popcorn.Directed by Jon S. Baird. Starring Taron Egerton, Toby Jones, Sofya Lebedeva. Running time: 120 minutes. Theatrical release March 31, 2023. Updated March 31, 2023
Watch the trailer for Tetris
Rating & Content Info
Why is Tetris rated R? Tetris is rated R by the MPAA for language.
Violence: Government agents punch and kick people who are later seen with bruises. Government agents threaten and intimidate people. A man’s jeans are stolen when he’s beaten. A man punches a business associate with whom he is angry.
Sexual Content: A woman kisses a married man who asks her to leave: a blackmail attempt follows.
Profanity: The script contains 25 sexual expletives, seven scatological curses, five terms of deity, six minor profanities, and two anatomical curse words. There are also crude expressions for male anatomy and illegitimacy. A woman is called a “whore”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are shown smoking and drinking, but not to excess.
Page last updated March 31, 2023
Tetris Parents' Guide
How closely does the movie track to reality? You can find out below:
History vs Hollywood: Tetris
Tetris.com: History of Tetris
You can learn more about the collapse of the Soviet Union in in these links:
History.com: Collapse of the Soviet Union
Wikipedia: Dissolution of the Soviet Union
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This exciting real-world story has inspired several books. Dan Ackerman’s The Tetris Effect: The game that hypnotized the world not only traces the history of the game, it also tries to explain its addictive properties. Box Brown tells the game’s story in graphic novel format with Tetris: The Games People Play.