“Based on real history”, “this kind of story cannot be invented”… It is with a curious insistence on hammering home the indisputable historicity of the game that Apple TV+ commercials have prepared us for the film. Tetrisfinally available Friday, March 31.
True to history, we do not know, but to the official history in any case, we do not doubt it for a moment: Tetris is validated and probably even wanted (and for a long time: the project has been in the works since at least 2014) by the Tetris Company, whose main activity is to ensure that the rights of what remains are respected. one of the best-selling indie games in the world.
It is therefore with circumspection that we launch the film directed by Jon S. Baird, already responsible for a biopic on Laurel and Hardy rather well received, Stan and Ollie. We see on screen Taron Egerton (Elton John in Rocketman) as Henk Rogers, the Dutch businessman who, in the late 1980s, snatched the rights to Tetris to the USSR on behalf of Nintendo, as well as Nikita Yefremov in the (secondary) role of Alekseï Pajitnov, the man credited with the invention of the most famous Russian video game.
We knew the Tetris Company, co-founded by Henk Rogers and Alekseï Pajitnov in 1996, rather reluctant to recognize the merits of other programmers of Tetris, while it is documented that Pajitnov, whose central role no one disputes, was assisted by Dmitri Pavlovsky and Vadim Guerassimov. Never named or shown here, they are just described, through an almost subliminal reply, as “two work buddies”.
But quickly, after about thirty minutes, the question of the paternity of Tetris is evacuated. This is where we gave up playing fact-checker, too busy raising an eyebrow when Henk Rogers (who is trying to win the rights to Tetris for the future Game Boy), Robert Stein (who then owned the rights for most other platforms) and the CEO of Mirrorsoft (a subsidiary of the DailyMirrorwhich distributes the game in the West), boulevard theater style, cross paths and avoid each other in the corridors of a Soviet government agency, with the rigor of doors slamming and, for lack of lovers in the cupboards, fabulous contracts in The drawers.
Between an ode to friendship and a business story
We raise the second eyebrow when the film suggests that Rogers would have contributed to inventing some of the iconic features of the game – we guess, at this time, the battalion of lawyers bent over the table of the writers. Then again when Mikhail Gorbachev himself, with an air that we have to resign ourselves to qualifying as a mutineer, refuses to invalidate the hypothesis according to which Tetris alone would be responsible for the fall of the USSR. And so it is, with eyebrows raised and eyes wide open, that we witness one of the most improbable motorized chase scenes in the history of cinema and video games combined, when Aleksei Pajitnov, placid creator of Tetristries to escape in the streets of Moscow from a corrupt politician who evokes all at once, and it’s funny, Christoph Waltz and Christophe Barbier.
Once the two hours of Tetris buckled, what did we see? A ” true story “genre “which does not invent itself” ? Maybe, maybe not. A story which in any case walks without trembling on a fine line, both a somewhat silly but ultimately touching ode to friendship between men and between peoples, and an astonishing tale of commercial dealings – half of the film takes place around brown tables in desks of the same color – quite miraculously bright and eye-catching. Especially a film which, even if it’s ultimately not really its subject, manages to talk about video games in a totally unexpected way and, it’s rare enough to be underlined, rather successful.