“BlackBerry” is directed by Matt Johnson (The Dirties, Nirvana the Band the Show), who also plays Doug in this film. Joining him are stars Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon, This Is the End), Glenn Howerton (A.P. Bio, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Rich Somner (Mad Men, The Devil Wears Prada), Michael Ironside (Highlander II: The Quickening, Superman: The Animated Series), Martin Donovan (Insomnia, Tenet), Michelle Giroux (Blood Pressure, Black Mirror), SungWon Cho (One Piece, Ranking of Kings), Mark Critch (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Grand Seduction), Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13, Frasier), and Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Man in Tights). This film is about the rise and fall of the once popular smartphone, BlackBerry.
Nostalgia has been a primary factor into the marketing and execution of many films over the years. Look at how many major franchises there are right now trying to cater to people’s long-held memories. In fact, just this month, we are seeing the tenth installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise and Disney’s live-action edition of “The Little Mermaid.” Whether we have a childhood connection with the franchise or we discovered it sometime back in the day, there is no doubt that both of these names are likely to thrive because of their recognition. Similarly, I have a bit of a childhood connection to BlackBerry. When I was in elementary and middle school, they were all the rage. Not in my demographic, but amongst adults. My mother had a couple BlackBerrys through her life, I knew teachers who had them, I came across ads for them, and I remember playing games and watching YouTube on my mom’s device when she did not need it. I remember the keyboard, some of the ringtones, the scrolly wheel. It was a nifty looking device, but looking back, it definitely feels bulky by today’s standards. I am still glad we have this film to take audiences back to a time that I almost forgot even existed. I am glad we have an excuse to start talking about this device once again and bring it back in a sense. If anything, this movie is doing for the titular phone what the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequels have been doing for Microsoft’s Zune, except that was practically a failure from the getgo.
“BlackBerry” was a film that came out of nowhere for me. I have seen some of the marketing, but it is one that has not kept my attention compared to say some of the bigger blockbusters, partially because of how much money must have been spent on the campaign. But now that I saw the movie, I think I am going to help cheapen those marketing costs a tad. Because “BlackBerry” gives “John Wick: Chapter 4” competition for the best movie of 2023. There are some easy comparisons to make between “BlackBerry” and films like “The Social Network” and “The Founder” because of its tech connections or the company’s story of humble beginnings. But to me, what makes “BlackBerry” so great is the same reason behind movies like “The Disaster Artist,” and even more recently, “The Phantom of the Open” working so well for me. Because movies like these manage to find inklings of success in one’s failure.
Of course, unlike “The Room,” which “The Disaster Artist” highlights, the BlackBerry phone and brand were a success to begin with. Granted they had a tough beginning, but they also had a meteoric rise. This movie showcases how they were the phone to define the 2000s, and I believe they arguably had more relevancy at that time than the iPhone when it was announced. It did not take long for the latter to thwart BlackBerry off its throne, but still.
This film has an excellent cast including Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis (left), one of the core people behind BlackBerry’s development. Joining him in a dynamic duo is Matt Johnson as Doug (center). More on him later. Michael Ironside kills a grit-filled supporting role as Purdy. Everyone in this movie is great. But if there is one individual that outshines them all, Glenn Howerton, who plays Jim Balsillie, not only gives the best performance in the movie, but one that has the potential to be my favorite of the year. Granted, it is only May.
If Glenn Howerton’s bone-chilling, jaw-dropping portrayal does not end up being my favorite of the year, I think it will end up being the most overlooked of the bunch. It is a marvel to the tenth degree. It is a fantastic blend of brilliant dialogue and hallowing physicality. Howerton’s presence alone is almost intimidating, and hearing him speak sometimes almost shivers me. To know that is possible with how down to earth this movie comes off, is incredible. The acting in this film is phenomenal, and Howerton is the cream of the crop of what is already a terrific ensemble.
The thing I enjoyed most about “BlackBerry” is that it not only shows the eventual lack of consumer interest BlackBerry earns because of competition, but also because of how the people making it were never on the same page. We see a group of people who disagree with how things should be done behind the scenes. One can call this a case of there being too many cooks in the kitchen, but it can also be said that it is a matter of those cooks not having the same values. Not only when it comes to how the product itself should be made, but the overall process of how the people making it should compose themselves. There is an obvious transition of the company’s doings throughout the film. Not only in terms of its growth, but how its people either grow or refuse to grow with it. It shows how one humble group can transform into a serious industry mainstay, and to do that might mean you have to take the fun out of your objective.
If I have one complaint about the film, I think the cinematography and the color palette are occasionally off-putting. The movie is kind of shaky and all over the place. One may argue that could add an induction of anxiety, which is a good way to describe this movie at times. But I also think the movie slightly lacks a cinematic feel because of this choice. This is likely a subjective preference, because when I think of certain TV shows I do not like, “The Office” often comes to mind because the camerawork, while definitely well-intentioned, is not my cup of tea. Maybe the overall look will work for some people, but for me, it is one of the weaker elements in an otherwise outstanding film.
“BlackBerry” is the cinematic lovechild of Matt Johnson. He co-wrote the film, he directed the film, and he even starred in it as Doug. By the way, he may be the most charismatic, endearing bundle of joy this film has. Johnson has some experience as someone who has worn multiple hats in this industry. But I think “BlackBerry” could be his big break depending on the box office and how well this film does at home. Much like I said about Ari Aster after seeing “Hereditary” a few years ago, I think if Matt Johnson announces his next project, I am there. While he may not have the style of Aster, he certainly has the substance and personality to back things up. I cannot wait to find out what Johnson does from here.
This is a film about sacrifice, greed, determination, and how one’s best efforts can unfortunately lead to one’s greatest failure. I love this movie, I think you should see this movie. And hopefully unlike the BlackBerry phone, it will never go out of style.
In the end, “BlackBerry” has achieved nerdvana. Of the past five months of movies, this one stands out. It is one of my favorite screenplays of the year. It is one of my favorite casts of the year. It is one of my favorite movies of the year. It is a surprisingly thrilling story with compelling characters that I had all sorts of feelings for. This movie works because it not only got me to side with the main characters, but it made me sympathize or occasionally side with anyone in the movie who would perhaps antagonize the main characters too. I know “The Little Mermaid” is going to clobber all the other movies at the box office this weekend. But if “The Little Mermaid” is sold out and you want to see something else, or if you want to drop your kids off at “The Little Mermaid” and see something else while you wait for their movie to finish, this may be your best option if it is playing in a theater near you. I am going to give “BlackBerry” a 9/10.
“BlackBerry” is now playing in theatres. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, check out some of my other ones! Recently I did reviews for films like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” just to name a few. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “BlackBerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever use a BlackBerry phone back in the day? Which model did you use? What are your thoughts on the product? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!