Review – BlackBerry

GUG_BB_1

Overview

Synopsis The creators of the BlackBerry smartphone are taken for a ride by a ladder-climbing businessman who bets everything on the success of a small team of Canadian engineers.

Length 2 hours

Release Date May 12, 2023

 

Rating R

Distribution IFC Films

Directing Matt Johnson

Writing Matt Johnson, Matthew Miller

Composition Jay McCarrol

Starring Glenn Howerton, Jay Baruchel, Matt Johnson, Rich Sommer, Michael Ironside, Martin Donovan, Michelle Giroux, SungWon Cho, Mark Critch, Saul Rubinek, Cary Elwes

One of the year’s most anticipated film festival releases has finally arrived on home streaming, and it is as good as people are saying, even though it is following in the footsteps of other films and stories.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: None.
Language/Crude Humor: Heavy language throughout the film. Characters cruelly address each other with severe profanity.
Drug/Alcohol References: Characters casually drink alcohol.
Sexual Content: Nothing sexual is depicted on screen.
Spiritual Content: Religion is not mentioned in the film.
Other Negative Content: Most of the characters we meet are innately greedy, cruel, or ignorant.
Positive Content: Themes of grappling with compromised values, respecting other people, and responding to problems properly.

Review

There is no shortage of Silicon Valley “true story” films. From The Pirates of Silicon Valley to The Social Network and Steve Jobs, and the HBO series Silicon Valley, tech giants have commanded the silver screen for decades. 

In some ways, this reflects the modern state of the film industry where name recognition sells movie tickets. People have heard of Facebook and iPhones, so they make for cheap movie fodder. Thankfully, many of these projects are quite entertaining, if only because the unstable genius minds that control the tech world are dramatic and immoral enough to warrant big-screen drama.

And that’s true for the most recent film in the genre, Blackberry. Based on the book Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry, this film adaptation follows the real-life story of Research-in-Motion’s creation of the BlackBerry smartphone in 1996, following the company through the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and its eventual collapse.

For a decade, BlackBerry controlled 45% of the cell phone market but made too many poor moves at the wrong time and effectively shut themselves out of an evolving tech environment, failing to catch up with Apple and eventually ceasing production in Canada. 

As we pick up the story, RIM is a small team of Canadian engineers working out of a small office and attempting to sell modems to larger tech firms but is being wrongly bankrupted in the process. The company is run by unfocused and socially inept geeks who spend all their time playing video games and watching movies. When ladder-climbing businessman Jim Balsillie discovers the team, he starts cracking the whip to turn the small company into a firm neck and successfully pitched a revolutionary all-in-one handheld device called the BlackBerry.

The core of the movie is a somewhat overwrought story about the evils of big business and corporations. The engineers are brilliant, but they don’t have the ability to pitch ideas or even stand up for themselves when they’re being taken advantage of by other corporations. Lasaridis has a backbone, but he is completely morally compromised. When he isn’t screaming at his employees, he’s making illegal deals behind the scenes. 

If you’ve seen one Silicon Valley drama, you already know where this is going. The engineers find themselves in over their heads and losing passion for their work. Meanwhile one of their own, Mike Lasaridis (Jay Baruchel), gets pulled into the corporate machine and he starts turning his back on his friends and becoming arrogant. What should feel like a very cliché story ends up being quite engaging as there’s enough character development for the viewers to care enough about them. The engineers are exactly as goofy and pathetic enough that we understand why they fail and need help, but fear what Balsillie’s influence will do.

The movie has received a lot of people thanks to its premiere in competition at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, and it’s clear why. The movie understands that the fall from grace implied by the narrative is not unpreventable. All these characters have something to gain from each other even though they don’t like each other. Their character faults ultimately end up being the thing that destroys their business. And we get to see every step of the process of destruction and feel bad about it.

Positives

+ Solid script and execution
+ Well executed story
+ Solid performances

Negatives

- Somewhat cliché themes and ideas

The Bottom Line

BlackBerry is a movie with few original ideas, but is executed very well to the point where it has earned its critical reputation and air of prestige surrounding it.

 

8

Tyler Hummel

Tyler Hummel is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, a College Fix Fellow, and a member of the Music City Film Critics Association. He has contributed to Geeks Under Grace, The Living Church, North American Anglican, Baptist News Global, The Tennessee Register, Angelus News, The Dispatch, Voeglin View, Hollywood in Toto, Law and Liberty, The Federalist, Main Street Nashville, Leaders Media, and the Catholic Herald of Milwaukee.

Leave a Comment