Starring: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson, Cary Elwes, and Saul Rubinek
Director: Matt Johnson
The downfall of BlackBerry is a story I knew a fair bit about, but the rise was a little less on my radar. While this film luckily encompasses the entire thing, it works against the story a bit as interesting details are set aside in favour of dramatic time jumps, which can cause some whiplash. Where this film shines, however, is the performance of Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie. He is a powerhouse on screen, and at his best when coming completely unhinged, making the perfect counter to Jay Baruchel's subdued Mike Lazaridis. The two of them carry this to being quite the entertaining film.
I love a good rise-and-fall corporate story, something BlackBerry certainly delivers. Tone-wise, it nimbly bounces between Silicon Valley and The Social Network, though the "rise" arc is much stronger than that of the "fall," which is a tad rushed. However, I can’t say enough about the casting. Glenn Howerton is perfect as a hot-headed corporate shark, bringing the same deep-seated rage he has demonstrated on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia for 15 seasons, and Jay Baruchel’s natural awkwardness serves his nerdy, “tech guy” character well. It’s not Oscar-worthy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if BlackBerry eventually wins some smaller awards down the line.
BlackBerry is a rise-and-fall true story that fascinated and entertained me, yet its lasting impact likely is minimal. The mix of The Social Network, The Big Short, and Silicon Valley vibes work in creating an electric tone that made me laugh, and the ensemble is great, especially a towering performance from Glenn Howerton that is truly unforgettable. However, while the pieces are there, it feels like it’s missing something. Perhaps if we were given a better look at our characters and what drives them, it would have elevated BlackBerry to the level of biopic it aspires to be, but it remains a fun time nonetheless.
BlackBerry is one of those "based on a true story" films that you watch and quickly forget about. Though it is an interesting rise-and-fall story that benefits from director’s Matt Johnson's honest indie approach, the film begins to lose its charm in the second half. It goes down a predictably conventional route that feels as dated as the actual BlackBerry phone. That said, it features some really enjoyable stuff too, especially Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton giving performances that feel different and unhinged, respectively.
This film was reviewed by Quentin as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Berlinale International Film Festival.