The rise and fall of Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry is one of the most infamous made-in-Canada stories, and it's gotten a phenomenal, riveting and just downright entertaining movie treatment with Matt Johnson's film BlackBerry (now in theatres), starring Johnson, Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton.
What is 'BlackBerry' about?
As the move chronicles, in 1996 Mike Lazaridis (played by Baruchel in the movie) and Douglas Fregin (Johnson) were operating RIM from a small office in Waterloo, Ont., basically just trying to keep their company afloat. Lazaridis has this very sort of socially awkward, bland but tech-smart personality, while Fregin is more chaotic, wearing a sweat band around his head and quirky graphic t-shirts.
Things change for the pair with one meeting, which results in the aggressive businessman Jim Balsillie (Howerton) joining the company, making his first task to essentially whip RIM into shape.
RIM ultimately is able to make a convincing case for the BlackBerry smartphoone. It has a full keyboard and functions as a device to send and receive emails, which revolutionized the way people communicate.
As the timeline moves into the 2000s, BlackBerry takes us through the stages of the mobile device's uprising, including the creation of the "unhackable" (but not really) BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), but also documents the journey of the device becoming obsolete.
Personalities clash, questionable business deals come up, service interruption happens, and of course, Apple unveils the iPhone, introducing a massive competitor.
Response to 'BlackBerry' movie
From the moment BlackBerry graced the eyes of its first audience, the movie started receiving rave reviews, which continue as it sees a wider release.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 11, 2023
With so much content at our fingertips to watch, really the best thing we can say about BlackBerry is that it is absolutely worth taking your hand off the remote or your computer keyboard, don't hit the "play next" button and get out to a movie theatre to see this film. We're positive you won't regret it.
Johnson has figured out a way to really dive deep and thoroughly tell the story of BlackBerry and RIM in a way that is absolutely riveting. The pace keeps you interested and at the edge of your seat, the comedy is so hysterical and so engrained in the dialogue, but surprisingly for us, it's also quite emotional.
Baruchel is a Canadian icon but this may actually be our favourite role he's taken on to date, playing the dynamics of Lazaridis' rise to success perfectly. Johnson is the perfect scene partner for Baruchel, with an absolutely kinetic energy to his performance, in addition to leading to charge in the development and directing of the movie. Howerton's interpretation of Balsillie is wonderfully powerful, kind of frightening, completely rounding out this perfect cast of characters.
— Barry Hertz (@HertzBarry) February 17, 2023
In a quite widely shared clip from the press conference for the film at Berlinale, Baruchel spoke about working on a Canadian film and putting it on the worldwide stage, largely dominated by an American lens to films. The actor said it ultimately comes down to doing "your thing" and not worrying about everybody else.
"It really is as simple as saying the movie takes place in Waterloo, Ontario and not saying Waterloo, Canada, out of fear that somebody might be like, 'What's Ontario?' As if that's going to make them turn the f—king movie off," Baruchel said. "That just doesn't happen."
As a Canadian viewer, there is something so appealing about the Canadiana of this story just being so unapologetically part of this film.
For example, when the story hits 2003, there is a conversation Balsillie has where he's told that, "Ted Rogers wants to have lunch in the city, he booked Canoe.”
"I’m not going to f—king Toronto unless there’s a game," Balsillie says in response. "Call Gary Bettman’s office about the Leaf tickets, f—ker tried to stick me in the third row.”
It's such an Ontario conversation, but this is an example of authenticity and impact being in the specifics. It wouldn't pack as much of a punch if the film tried to avoid being "too" Canadian.
Ultimately, BlackBerry is a movie Canadians should be particularly proud of, but exemplifies that wherever you're from, a great movie is a great movie.
It's easy to compare the film to a movie like The Social Network, but we'd say BlackBerry is even better. You can definitely believe the hype.