Matt Johnson’s fictional dramedy, BlackBerry, charts the course of the sensational rise and catastrophic fall of the world’s first smartphone.

If you were around for the big tech boom in the late-’90s, then you’re sure to have stories of its effects on you, your family, and society at the time. In 1996, Mike Lazardis (Jay Baruchel) and his best friend Douglas Fregin (Matt Johnson) were operating their company Research In Motion (RIM) in an undersized commercial space atop a convenience store. The two led a small team of techies who were more in-tuned with Command & Conquer and Star Wars than presentations and sales. With that, Mike & Doug were tasked with doing business. Acting completely out of their comfort zone, they ran a shoddy presentation past businessman Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) to no avail. It was after this chance meeting that the story begins to unfold.

Doug was like a co-pilot to Mike. He was the glue that held the team together when things didn’t run so smoothly. He also encouraged gaming, film banter, and the ever-so-important movie nights that they held weekly. Mike, on the other hand, was a bit more serious about creating products and pushing the company forward. They were a good balance for one another. As Mike steered the ship, Doug kept the crew happy and rowing.

A nod to Howerton’s prowess as an actor, I absolutely loathed Jim Balsillie. From the start, Jim was an absolute prick. He’s that one guy in the office who thinks he should be in charge of everything and everybody, not just because he’s entitled, but because he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else. Unfortunately, that same contemptible hothead came with money and deep knowledge of the business.

Pictured L to R: Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazardis and Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie

While both Mike and Jim had their vices, the team came together and made history, changing the way society operated altogether. Having a BlackBerry in the ’90s meant something. It wasn’t just a status symbol, it meant you owned a product that was new, unique and wasn’t easy to come by. The company etched its name into society across the board. It wasn’t just business or education, it was government, music, and even pop culture. The two most popular terms you’d hear during their reign were “BBM” (BlackBerry Messenger; a feature exclusively for BlackBerry owners to communicate) and “CrackBerry” (a term coined because the BlackBerry device became so obsessive that full-grown adults couldn’t focus at work, home, or in meetings).

Before we started, all I knew about Blackberry was that they were from Waterloo, Ontario, but I was really excited by that,” 

Director Matt Johson on what he knew before making the film

BlackBerry is an adaptation of the bestselling book ‘Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry’. A tiny company out of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada changed the way the world operated. Even at their peak, the guys never moved operations away from Waterloo. In one of the boldest moves in the film, Jim not only goes after an NHL team but tries to move them to nearby Hamilton, Ontario (further cementing their desire to stay put).

BlackBerry gets a 10 out of 10. Boredom won’t be found in this film and the acting from Howerton and Baruchel is top-class from start to finish. Mike was obsessed with perfection and was unwilling to compromise on his ideas. Jim was arrogant, boisterous, and downright greedy. As much as they accomplished together, there’s nothing they could’ve done to combat Apple’s answer to the BlackBerry (the iPhone) or the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). And with that, a decade of dominance was met with a swift comeuppance.

BlackBerry hits theaters nationwide on May 12. You can buy tickets HERE

-Jon Jones

Photos: Courtesy of IFC

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