BlackBerry chronicles the rise and fall of a generation-defining device

BLACKBERRY starring Jay Baruchel, left, and Glenn Howerton, right.

It’s hard to remember it in our modern world, but there was a time when phones—even cell phones—were just a means of making voice calls. But a few pioneers saw the possibility for it to do more, much more. The new film BlackBerry takes us back to that time, chronicling the efforts of a group of people who had a vision for what the cellular market could be.

As the film notes, at one point, BlackBerry controlled 45 percent of the market. Now, it’s a relic that only some seem to remember fondly. But how did it come into being, and how did it get into so many hands? That’s what this new film, which opens in limited release Friday, seeks to tell.

The film is based on Sean Silcoff’s book Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry. It chronicles the efforts of partners Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson) to bring their revolutionary device to market. The problem is they didn’t have a good pitch or even a good name.

Enter Jim Ballsillie (Glenn Howerton), who had the business savvy to bring the device to market. After putting up capital—even mortgaging his house—Jim bet it all on BlackBerry and worked with Mike to make it a hit. It was the device that changed the market; a piece of technology everyone wanted to get their hands on.

After some incredible success, the fall was just as rapid and dramatic. Shady business dealings, a failure to adapt to the market and the crumbling of friendships soon led to the company’s demise. All of it is captured in this film.

Johnson not only serves as one of the stars, but he also directs the film. He brings a good energy and sense of pace to the project. He also leans into the stars. Baruchel, who’s used to playing different supporting roles, is empathetic at times as Mike. He carries the role and the character forward well. But the real star here is Howerton, who brings a fierce energy to the role of Jim. Some of his scenes got the narrative humming, especially when playing off the more reserved energy of Baruchel.

This is an engaging story that delivers as a piece of entertainment. It’s worth checking out if only to learn more about the true story of the device that changed cellular phones forever.

BlackBerry is opening in limited release Friday, May 12.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.


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