Crackling with an uncontrollable energy from the get-go, Matt Johnson’s embellished (and that’s being kind, it seems) docu-drama telling the origins of the BlackBerry is the latest in a line of movies this year where what was once product placement is now the whole point. We all know the eventual products these movies center around will become a success at one point or another and in different capacities, but BlackBerry isn’t so much about how the product came to be or even the impact of it, but rather the impact on the people behind its creation, success, and downfall and how not only the world, but those lives were forever changed because of it. 

Johnson and co-screenwriter Matthew Miller know audiences don’t necessarily care about the thought process that birthed the smartphone and they correctly assume audiences understand the impact it has had negating any need to try and encapsulate the seismic cultural shift that occurred because of this invention spearheaded by Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Frigan (Johnson). Instead, the film then becomes about the corruption of dreamers by the ability to obtain the dream. In the film, Glenn Howerton’s raging, narcissistic, intelligent, but insane and insanely arrogant Jim Ballsillie (pronounce that as you think it should be, not is, for best results) is brought in to conduct the business portion of the equation that engineers like Lazaridis and Frigan were fumbling. Through this partnership we see so many dimensions of what can be gained from aggression as well as what wounds are bore because of it; what heights can be reached from ambition as well as what heights might be missed if there is no drive to accompany it.

Jay Baruchel stars as Mike Lazaridis in this story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world's first smartphone.
© Budgie Films Inc.

As with all things in life, balance is key. BlackBerry posits Ballsillie as one end of the spectrum and Frigan as another with Lazaridis (the brains behind the whole operation) caught in the middle, constantly hoping to steady the ship while either end more often than not had ideas and asks that conflicted with one another leaving Mike with a choice between fulfilling his dreams or realizing his ambitions. While many will know where the choices made lead given the modern relevance of the word "BlackBerry" it is the ripple effect of these multi-faceted personalities who were front row for the introduction of the most culturally significant invention since the internet itself that give us the most fascinating insights into and about how, regardless of intent, easy it is to become what you started out trying to eliminate. The final shot of Lazaridis encapsulating this journey perfectly sends the audience away on a fairly dour and depressing note, but it should be noted that BlackBerry is also one of the funniest movies I've seen all year. 

Howerton is downright diabolical thus making for an entertaining ride and is absolutely the reason you're all in the minute he shows up on screen, but it is Lazaridis and therefore Baruchel who holds the heart of the film in his hands. Baruchel's wiry voice and apprehensive demeanor make Lazaridis feel like anything but your stock hero yet it is his principles that define him and his intelligence that cashes those checks. He stands his ground for some time, only compromising when it's the best option and oftentimes only because he knows it is best for his friends if not his inventions, but even Mike lives long enough to see himself become the villian and the worst part: he knows and comes to terms with the transformation.

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