Business smarts in a cold war-era drama, comedy, thriller.
One of the Best of 2023
|2023 thus far is the year of the product/corporate biopic and despite some persistent naysayers who insist this is just commercialism of the worst genre, it is proving to add more interesting business obstacles onto the human aspects. Tetris is not the story of how it was created, but how it was purchased, sold and packaged to become one of the most popular video games worldwide.
Directed by: Jon S. Baird
Screenplay by: Noah Pink
Starring: Taron Egerton
Quite a few of us fell in love with Taron Edgerton after he played Elton John in Rocketman and that only increases in a completely different but extremely strong performance here. Henk Rogers (Edgerton) is a Dutch-born, American-educated and Japan-residing video game designer and businessman. That international background makes him uniquely empathetic and less materialistic than your usual capitalist businessmen. Primarily working in the US and Japan, he’s a video game salesman, but has a strong advantage over many others in that industry: he’s a computer programmer first, he understands and knows how the video games are created in the first place.
Some people think the film should have focused on Tetris’ creator, Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian computer programmer, but I disagree. I think Pajitnov’s point of view is very limited. A man born under communism rule in the Soviet Union, he worked for the government, he knew his game that he developed belonged to the government, and he didn’t try to go against his government’s wishes, remaining a quiet, dutiful citizen until the collapse of the Soviet Union. This film needs Henk Rogers, someone who is extremely smart in business development and legal contracts way beyond his education in computer programming and has a reckless idealism that causes him to think he can just fly into the Soviet Union and negotiate a deal for Tetris rights. That’s what makes this movie interesting.
It's a movie about finding differences, discrepancies and loopholes in contracts and negotiating with a communist government to try and capitalize off of somebody else’s idea. You can certainly call Rogers stupid and bold because who would even attempt that, but he’s also relentlessly entertaining and very endearing because he represents the most genuine of all the businessmen trying to steal the same thing.
Edgerton didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Rocketman and he won’t be nominated for Tetris either, but I would put his performance up against any other best of the year. His time better come sooner rather than later.
Tetris won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I think it has a fantastic mix of business marketing, contract negotiations in the middle of the Soviet Union during the Cold War with genuine human connections and an international flair.