The rise and fall of the “BlackBerry” takes audiences on a wild ride.

Canadian-born and -bred Matt Johnson is no stranger to wearing many hats as he is constantly writing, directing, and starring in his projects (Nirvanna the Band the Show/Operation Avalanche), no matter what they might be. The man behind many constant changes hasn’t missed yet, and with his latest in BlackBerry, he may be looking down the barrel of some major accolades come end of the year. With BlackBerry arguably being the most accessible project Johnson has been attached to yet, audiences are going to be captivated by the storytelling, direction, and performances in this story of the rise, and ultimate demise, of the world’s first smartphone.

BlackBerry Key Still

Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis in BLACKBERRY.

For those who are unaware, BlackBerry came onto the scene in 1999 and, in 2002, released essentially the smartphone we know today. BlackBerry changed the game for phone users, for business people, for society, — the phone was simply revolutionary. But, as always when something revolutionary comes around, there is always someone trying to take what exists and make it better and create competition. There is so much information to be told throughout the film, but the way that Johnson crafts the story, it never lingers in a spot for too long, never focuses on the tedious bits of information, and manages to deliver some of the most witty and unintentionally hilarious dialogue possibly ever spoken in a film. To say that BlackBerry is a perfect film would be hyperbole because nothing in this world is truly, in fact, perfect, however to find significant fault or issue with the film, one would be perplexed. If one would take a fine-toothed comb, surely there would be crumbs of issues, but the positive truly outweighs everything tenfold.

The film centres around Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel), who is the mastermind behind RIM (Research in Motion) and BlackBerry, and his business associate Doug (Matt Johnson). They are trying to get their relatively small business off the ground with a substantial contract they have, but need a hand because they’ve certainly bitten off more than they could chew. So they approach Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) and he informs them that they’re getting the rug pulled out from under them. Under immense pressure and realizing their backs are against the wall, they are approached by Jim with an offer to help, and after some hilarious negotiation, Jim is now co-CEO and helps Mike, and by association Doug, find their footing and ensure the success of the business. While there are a lot of turbulent times and some wild roller coaster feelings of success and defeat, BlackBerry rounds out its chaos with Cary Elwes in the role of Yankowski and Michael Ironside as Purdy to bring new levels of intrigue to the story of BlackBerry.

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Director/co-writer Matt Johnson as Doug in BLACKBERRY.

When a film is so masterfully told by co-screenwriter Johnson, alongside Matthew Miller, based on Jacquie McNish’s book, the performances have to come to par to properly encapsulate everything that the director (Johnson in this case) envisioned. Thankfully Baruchel and Johnson deliver the performances that are needed of them to round out the excellence of BlackBerry. However, it is Glenn Howerton (Dennis from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who is, firstly, unrecognizable as himself, but who also delivers a performance that skyrockets him into a front-runner for recognition this year. His performance is nothing short of impeccable, delivering fear, passion, and some of the most bewildering dialogue of all time. When he screams out of anger, “I’m from Waterloo, where the vampires hang out!,” the sheer intensity and absurdity of the dialogue just brings the audience further into the film, as you’re so engaged and entangled with these three characters and their story that despite even knowing where BlackBerry is today, it is hard not to route for these seemingly underdogs.

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Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie in BLACKBERRY.

BlackBerry is easily the best picture of the year so far, bar none. To have a movie that feels so much like a documentary while being fully a feature film with powerhouse performances that are this captivating and demanding is nothing shy of remarkable. Engaging the audience and placing them solely in the picture itself, making them believe they’re right there as all these moments happen is what movies are about, and engaging the audience to escape the world for the film’s running time is exactly what BlackBerry does. If this is your first time experiencing a feature (or show) that Matt Johnson has been involved with, do yourself a favour and watch BlackBerry a second time. Then go and search out his other works and see what you’ve been missing out on.

In theaters May 12th, 2023.

For more information, head to the official IFC Films BlackBerry webpage.

Final Score: 5 out of 5.


Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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