“Why would anybody want a phone without a keyboard?”Mike Lazaridis
A “fictionalization” of the rise and fall of RIM/BlackBerry, Matt Johnson approaches the subject as twin tales of hubris — the engineering perfectionism of founder Mike Lazaridis and the flexible ethics of business mogul Jim Balsillie. With a heavy dose of humour and dense with pop culture, there are tonal similarities with last year’s Tetris and the recent Dumb Money, though BlackBerry has a more cogent theme and arc. In fact, its blend of historical bootstrapped tech development and entrepreneurial intrigue is often reminiscent of the criminally underappreciated series Halt and Catch Fire. Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton are surprising but highly effective choices as the leads, while Johnson gives himself the role of Doug Fregin in a committed but less nuanced performance as the sidelined co-founder who fails to mature with the business. Over a decade later, The Social Network continues to influence how this kind of film is made, in the presentation of startup culture and the fractious relationships and isolation stemming from success. Lazaridis’ complacency at having built the smartphone market and his certainty that the iPhone would fail are, with hindsight, almost farcical, but BlackBerry explores (at a surface level) the unexpectedly shifting market of the carrier networks as well. The enlightening result is a good tragedy, and an excellent cautionary tale.