Allow us to set your minds at rest. The content churners have not got around to turning the eponymous puzzle game into a motion picture. Not yet, anyway. Jon S Baird’s diverting movie for Apple TV+, an unlikely comic mash-up of The Social Network and Gorky Park, deals, rather, with the efforts of Henk Rogers, a Dutch-American entrepreneur, to secure the rights to Tetris in the face of KGB resistance, tangled bureaucracy and, most intriguingly, the schemes of a notorious mogul. The picture loses its way more often than is comfortable, but it always lands back in an agreeable place.
The casting of the amiable Taron Egerton – sometime Elton John and Eddie the Eagle – in the central role tells us the film-makers are very much on Rogers’s side. We begin with him encountering the game, already popular in Russia, at a convention in the late 1980s, and deciding he is the man to market it worldwide.
Noah Pink’s lengthy screenplay struggles to summarise the legal complications he encounters after pitching the project to Nintendo, so it is hardly possible to do so here. But it transpires that his competitor Robert Stein (Toby Jones) already has one grubby finger on the product, and that the Russians have, in their contracts, failed to distinguish between PCs, consoles and the then-imminent handheld devices.
Then there is the looming threat from an acquisitive, ultimately doomed Robert Maxwell. The film is at its best when Roger Allam, unrecognisable beneath layers of prosthetics, is chewing his way towards the Czech-born owner of the Daily Mirror, who, shortly after the events here depicted, dropped fatally from the back of his yacht. The Irish actor Anthony Boyle is equally strong as his flailing son Kevin. “That’s ‘Mr Maxwell’!” he barks at anyone casual enough to address him by his forename.
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Elsewhere, scored to pastiche eight-bit-video-game music and intercut with Game Boy-style graphics, the film propels Rogers about a Soviet Union that threatens to implode before he can get the right names on the right contracts. That same sense of desperation occasionally characterises a film that needed to iron out some narrative slackness before launching into production. There is much rushing to little purpose. Too many dull contractual glitches get in the way of the enthusiastic performances. An modest oddball success, for all that.
Tetris is streaming on Apple TV+ from today