Based on Jacquie McNish’s business chronicle Losing the Signal, Canadian production BlackBerry wittily narrates the rise and fall of the Ontario tech company that pioneered the smartphone. From the early days of failed pitches to becoming the most sought-after device in North America to sinking into obscurity as “the phone that people had before they had an iPhone,” the tragicomedy takes viewers on a wild ride of ambition and greed.
Director Matt Johnson also co-wrote the script and co-stars as Douglas Fregin (one of the original founders of Research in Motion and picture-book nerd). Staying true to Johnson’s preferred mockumentary style, the feature’s cinematography operates on a two-camera setup that moves with and between the actors, giving the structure a bright-eyed and spontaneous feel. With a snappy editing pace to aid the humour of the screenplay, the three decades unpacked in these two hours fly by.
Based on physical appearance alone, Jay Baruchel may not immediately spring to everybody’s mind as the definitive actor to embody CEO Mike Lazaridis, so the artificial mop of whitish hair on his head takes some getting used to. Nevertheless, the comedian’s earnest portrayal of a deeply conflicted genius seduced by success is top-notch – especially in his scenes with Glenn Howerton, who wows in equal measure as his alpha-male counterpart, Jim Balsillie. The iridescent ensemble making up the supporting characters includes Saul Rubinek, Mad Men’s Rich Sommer and Cary Elwes.
One may be tempted to describe the tonal and stylistic approach as something akin to The Social Network meets The Office. However, what makes BlackBerry such a rewarding experience is precisely that it doesn’t try to emulate Hollywood productions but succinctly finds its own voice. A real banger.
BlackBerry is released in UK cinemas on 6th October 2023.