After the success of The Social Network and two Steve Jobs biopics, another technology-based film gets the true story adaption in Blackberry from IFC Films. In addition, to directing and co-starring in the movie, Matt Johnson pens the screenplay with Matthew Mill. Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff's book "Losing the Signal" inspired the script.
The film, set between 1996 and 2008, tells the story of Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), two unique entrepreneurs. The clumsy technological innovator and dreamer Mike partnered with the shrewd Jim to create the first smartphone to revolutionize modern communication. Also in the mix is Mike's friend and business partner, the hipster Doug (Matt Johnson), who Jim can't stand due to his carefree view of the world. This unlikely trio managed to make their enterprise a global success in less than a decade, completely transforming how people work, play, and communicate with each other.
When I first got out of the Air Force, my second job was working for a government contractor near the end of the Blackberry craze. While I never owned a Blackberry, I always appreciate a good biopic, so when I saw the trailer for Blackberry a few months back, I looked forward to seeing the film and learning more about the company's rise and fall.
Johnson makes a wise choice upfront to shoot the film in a mockumentary style. The decision was commendable as it clearly demonstrated that despite some employees' lack of focus, they can still deliver results when it counts. Furthermore, it underscores the significance of maintaining a productive workplace. The team needs a formal organizational structure and operates out of a shared workspace where they enjoy weekly movie nights. Johnson is setting up a domino effect that happens when a company finds success.
The film depicts the clash between a business executive skilled in tough negotiations and a group of unrefined innovators capable of developing groundbreaking products. Despite the initial differences between the assertive Balsillie and the more introverted Lazaridis, their partnership evolves into a mutually beneficial relationship, leading them to become Co-CEOs.
Glenn Howerton shines as a cunning business magnate making bold decisions, while Jay Baruchel portrays Lazaridis as a genius, timid and disorganized engineer with comedic tones. The sidekick role of Johnson adds an interesting dynamic to the power struggle between these two characters. Johnson could have played Doug as full-on comic relief but Instead gives the character some depth as someone who refuses to sell out.
The recreation of this era is spot-on, and the comedy surrounding NHL-related episodes adds a level of Canadian irony that further enriches this story of striving for success on a large scale. For those interested in history, the film includes footage of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone, foreshadowing the future. The BlackBerry crew standing in front of the presentation can be seen feeling the pain and acknowledging that their time is coming to an end. Even today, we continue to feel the significant impact of these events.
Despite galvanizing moments here and there, Matt Johnson's directing keeps the film from getting too outrageous. Ultimately while the film doesn't reach the heights of what David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin did with The Social Network, Blackberry has enough of an interesting story for my recommendation.
Final Grade: B
Blackberry is in theaters now