Playing May 5th at the Chicago Critics Film Festival (tickets) before opening worldwide May 12th.
Jay Baruchel must love playing the underdog. I’ve seen a lot of movies he’s starred in, and these characters may seem meek at first, but by the end, they’ve come out on top in one way or another. In Blackberry, he’s Mike Lazaridis, the father of the smartphone, and what I see is a person being pushed around by greedy b*astards. Had he partnered with other people who were just as visionary, I’m sure this device might have evolved with the times instead of becoming a relic of early century.
Although his company, Research in Motion, created the first generation of smartphones, what’s presented in Matt Johnson‘s film is about three figures who led this research house through all its ups and downs. That is, not everyone has a good sense for business, and I believe that was key to this company’s eventual demise. However, this movie is not about what they did. Instead, it’s about how he and Doug Fregin (played by Johnson) would struggle to be the true heart of the company, while another individual attempts to usurp them. If this plot sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it in The Founder (movie review).
The 90s was a crazy time for tech and the dot com industry. And just why this device succeeded is because of the effort Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) put into the marketing of the device. No film can survive without a telltale villain, and here, he’s more than the adversary to Mike and Doug’s way of life. Howerton gets to be very despicable in this role, and this film is great making him mostly responsible for the death of the company. There are other factors to consider too, but to say what Steve Jobs is up to and what he has planned would be spoiling too much.
But one must remember this biopic is a fictionalised account. It’s rare to see this disclaimer at the start of any cinematic presentation, and had more of this been done for other works, I can dispense with comparing fact from fiction and evaluate the dramatics more. After watching this film, I’ll have to look at Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s, “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry” (Amazon link) next. I like to know what the facts are and where the fiction comes in. Although these founders and former CEOs are philanthropists, what they’ve done post isn’t recognised.
And as for why the device would fail in the latter decades is multifold. The engineers did not see how the times must change. Baruchel is perfect to deliver a character who prefers to stick his head in the sand. Lazaridis is that consummate nerd who doesn’t want to smell the roses and likes the scent of solder instead. The way this person didn’t have the social skills to handle sharks like Jim defines where this film is headed.
Although this character manages to develop a backbone later in the film, it comes too late in terms of saving his baby from the sharks. Anyone who’s followed the tech trades knows how this story ends. What makes this movie special is in how it celebrates the victories and the impact the Blackberry had. It’s a shame it couldn’t adapt with the times. The irony appeared later when third party manufacturers decided that protective cases with keyboards can deliver the best of both worlds–the tactile experience along with a touch screen.
5 Stars out of 5