Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Capitalism is hot. Earn the highest profit by producing the best good or service at the most competitive price. 2023 has already seen its fair share of movies that tackle the subject—First Tetris, then Air, and now Blackberry. However, not all tales of entrepreneurial determination have the same approach. While the first two were uplifting sagas of can-do spirit, the latest is decidedly less inspirational. The accelerated rise & disastrous fall of the first smartphone is the subject of this exhilarating but sad account.

I take biopics — which blend fact and fiction — with a grain of salt. The screenplay is adapted from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s book Losing the Signal. According to this, BlackBerry started with two nerds. Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) has an idea and starts a company with his buddy and fellow geek Douglas Fregin. Actor Matt Johnson (who stars as Douglas) also directs from a script co-written with longtime collaborator Matthew Miller. The messy hair, headband-wearing Douglas manages the engineers but is just as focused on scheduling weekly movie nights for the staff. John Carpenter’s They Live is a favorite.

Mike and Douglas are schooled in technology but not in the ways of business. Their Waterloo, Ontario-based firm, Research In Motion (RIM), has a product called the PocketLink, “a pager, a cell phone, and an e-mail machine all in one.” It’s going nowhere. They’re a couple of minnows in a world for sharks. They need an aggressive personality. Enter corporate fast talker Jim Balsillie. Star Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is almost unrecognizable as the balding businessman. Antagonistic and overbearing, the actor gives the performance of his career thus far. He’s incredible and believable as the tycoon who leads their enterprise — for better and for worse — into a 50% market share and $20 billion in annual sales.

BlackBerry is a narrative of contrasting ideologies and bruised egos. Despite being extremely intelligent, Mike and Douglas were innocent and naive children in a world of adults. This is a Canadian saga told by Canadian filmmakers. Yet the film perfectly captures the lackadaisical style that characterizes Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Facebook. Jim is a different fit altogether. The volatile mix would prove both advantageous and detrimental to the corporation’s success. Also, Steve Jobs’ launch of the iPhone in 2007 didn’t help. Mike initially insisted users would prefer their tactile, clicking keyboard. Of course, Jobs’ revolutionary keyboardless design would ultimately become the industry standard. Although the movie simplifies things considerably by making it seem like Jobs’ announcement was an immediate death knell. In reality, Blackberry would continue gaining users until 2013 before gradually losing to Apple in the cell phone arena.

Competition is ideal for encouraging the finest products at the lowest price people are willing to pay. The downside is that one company’s triumph often means another’s defeat. This is one of those “true” tales of capitalism that inspired me to delve deeper when it was over. How they came up with the name of their device is never even explained. (Someone thought the tiny black keyboard resembled the surface of the fruit). While certain developments feel fictionalized, it blends a heady amount of facts to be highly informative. The chronicle brilliantly melds comedy with truth into a thoroughly entertaining (and depressing) mix of history and fun. Blackberry is a fascinating account of “that thing you owned before you got an iPhone.”

BlackBerry is a limited release in theaters on May 12.


5 Responses to “BlackBerry”

  1. I never had a BlackBerry but I do remember it vividly as the ‘send me your BBM’ was the ‘it’ phrase for a bit! Did you have one??

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never had a Blackberry either. I have always been slow to embrace the latest thing in smartphone techology. I’m still using an iPhone 8 Plus if you can believe it.🤣 🤣 🤣


      • Hey.. I’m right over here with my Galaxy 8 which pretty much does everything #21 does but maybe not as big a screen..which I’m perfectly fine with. I don’t take selfies sooooo.. hahahaha I think we are good!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This was another pretty good history lesson. Glenn Howerton was very good. Wished they had explained how they came up with the name. 3 1/2 ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

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