It’s hard to think back now, but there was a moment in time when it was considered weird if you didn’t have a BlackBerry phone. In the 2000s, the Canadian-made phone was the hottest piece of tech you could own, to the point it controlled almost half of the market share of all cell phones at its peak in 2010. A decade later, it’s all but non-existent. What happened? That question is the root of the hilarious dramedy BlackBerry, a movie surrounding the rise and fall of the tech giant.
The movie opens in 1996, where mild-mannered Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and his super-geeky best friend Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson), founders of Waterloo-based tech startup Research in Motion, are short on cash and hoping to get an investment for their device of the future: an all-in-one phone and email device they call the PocketLink. While the meeting is a bust, the PocketLink’s potential attracts the interest of ruthless businessman Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), who quickly joins RIM and makes himself co-CEO, much to Doug’s chagrin.
The PocketLink is renamed the BlackBerry and quickly becomes a bigger success than anyone ever expected, becoming the world’s first smartphone. Over the course of the next decade, shady business tactics, clashing management personalities, increasing competition, and good old-fashioned greed threaten to show the company that its massive rise will eventually lead to an even bigger fall.
“Every time Howerton enters a scene, he exudes a pure, visceral intensity in a way that is terrifying, hilarious, and consistently captivating.”
When it comes to performances, all eyes will surely be on Glenn Howerton, who delivers nothing less than a firestorm. Every time Howerton enters a scene, he exudes a pure, visceral intensity in a way that is terrifying, hilarious, and consistently captivating. His portrayal of Balsillie is like a human time bomb ready to explode into rage at any moment, something that should be familiar to fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s very early to call, but I hope this can lead to a potential Best Supporting Actor campaign later this year.
The rest of the cast delivers as well. Jay Baruchel’s turn as Mike is one of his most nuanced performances to date, Matt Johnson is a hilarious show stealer as Fregin, and there are solid if brief appearances from character actors like Cary Elwes and Michael Ironside.
“BlackBerry’s greatest strength is how well it balances comedy and drama.”
One of BlackBerry’s greatest strengths is how well it balances comedy and drama. Johnson’s well-executed direction and script (co-written with Matthew Miller, based on the novel Losing The Signal) give the movie a docudrama-style presentation that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the chaos that goes on in these office rooms.
There are as many moments that will make you laugh as there are moments when the tension is almost unbearable. There is a scene in the middle where the RIM employees see the iPhone unveiled for the first time, and watching their hearts sink feels like something out of a thriller. My only real issue with the movie is that while it moves at a fast pace, there are moments that I wish the movie had more time to flesh out, like Jim’s (surprising and real) attempts to buy an NHL team.
BlackBerry is the most I’ve laughed and feared at the same time since Uncut Gems. Whether you have nostalgia for the device or not, BlackBerry is one of the most entertaining times you can have at the movies this summer, and is definitely worth checking out.