With a robust and compelling story in hand, BlackBerry begins by returning us to the Pleistocene days of the 1990s when a Canadian company known as Research in Motion (RIM) was trying to secure a place in the burgeoning tech world.
Tech entrepreneurs Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson) led a team that invented a hand-held device that could tie into networks and deliver email, as well as phone conversations. A commercial revolution awaited a jump start.
It took the arrival of ambitious marketer Jim Balsille (Glenn Howerton) to kick the geeky RIM group toward market dominance that lasted until the arrival of the iPhone with its spiffy touch screen and sleek design.
BlackBerry’s claim to fame was its keypad, which — if you recall — encouraged folks to compose with their thumbs as clicks of accomplishment sounded. BlackBerry users were in touch.
A screenplay by Johnson, Jacquie McNish, and Matthew Miller rides the waves of comic energy that rocket a trio of unlikely characters toward life-changing success.
Johnson, who also directs, bases his movie on a true story, using it as a source of satire fueled by three strong performances: Howerton's as Balsillie, Baruchel as Lazaridis, and Johnson as Fregin, a free-form techie who insists that movie night become a company staple.
Baruchel creates a character who eventually feels slighted by the developments that sunk BlackBerry; Lazaridis credits himself with making mobile devices essential to a generation of strivers. He's like the groundbreaking artist who's surpassed by those he's influenced.
Howerton's Basilile moves through the movie like a bullet. A demanding exec, he sometimes seems to follow a ready-fire-aim approach, displaying a genius for spreading the word -- and upping sales.
Johnson's character-driven movie doesn't shortchange business aspects, including the way BlackBerry made deals with networks such as Verizon, allowing for the ascendance of its signature device.
The decline part of movies such as BlackBerry inevitably suffers when compared to the rise. We love success stories, even if we know that failure eventually will undermine hope. The trouble with rocket rides is that they sometimes crash.
When the iPhone debuted in 2007, a sleek new, touch-screen device became the one that consumers never seemed to look up from.
It's hardly news that the technology business moves quickly, spraying causalities throughout its digital wake, but Johnson brings the BlackBerry story to life in ways that are funny and smart.
Perhaps that's because Johnson and his team give the story the kind of mordant spin that comes from knowing that any endeavor has the potential to become the butt of what feels like a karmic joke.
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