Written and directed by star Matt Johnson, co-written by Jacquie McNish and Matthew Miller, the story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world’s first smartphone. Also starring: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Cary Elwes, Saul Rubinek, Michael Ironside, Rich Sommer and SungWon Cho.
If you’re going into this expecting something slick and biting, à la The Social Network, you’d be along sort of the right lines but more so if it had a baby with HBO’s Silicon Valley. Matt Johnson’s directorial style isn’t about flash and glamour, it’s committed to reflecting the tone of its leading characters. The creators of BlackBerry were everyday guys, obsessed with tech and pop culture, and it’s great that Johnson chose to stick with that rather than attempting to over stylise things which would have greatly thrown off the tone. The direction picks up a good speed, there’s a strong pacing to it but it remains grounded which allows the tension to grow gradually until it’s ready to be right in your face for the final scenes.
The way that BlackBerry moves is one of its biggest strengths, the flow of energy and the progression are right on the money. The way that it spans the timeline of several years captures the story extremely well, it never feels rushed or slow, it’s right in the sweet spot. It has a solid grip on reality and recreating the era but it’s a shame it didn’t embrace a more impactful soundtrack, that period of time is ripe with material to ramp up the nostalgia. As well as the fact that it is a genuinely interesting story of motivation, greed, technological advancement and competition. As well as yet another reminder to never sign anything you haven’t read.
Another strength of the film is its cast, starting with Jay Baruchel who’s been so often seen in over the top comedies and known for his voice work on animated films that he can be underestimated. BlackBerry shows that he has more to offer, there’s a great intensity to his portrayal of Mike Lazaridis and the way that he slowly creates cracks in his persona as things heat up is gripping to watch. Matt Johnson keeps things more relatable and chill, Doug is the partner who cares more for the work than the money. So unsurprisingly, he’s slowly pushed aside as Lazaridis gets a taste for success. Glenn Howerton adds a chaotic edge to the proceedings, giving Jim Balsillie the feel of a reckless poker player, willing to bet it all but he might not have the cards to back it up.
BlackBerry tells a story of success, fame and fortune without ever feeling the need to glam things up, keeping its feet on the ground and making something very captivating. It moves confidently with strong direction and editing, to give it a faster pacing and get through years worth of story without ever feeling rushed. It’s got a great cast and is a huge step up in showing what Matt Johnson is capable of behind the camera. It draws you in effortlessly and keeps you glued till the very end.