It is probably difficult for a lot of people to fathom but there was actually a time before mobile phones were a thing. I remember buying my first when I was at uni and at the instance of a friend who was tired of not being able to contact me when I was out and about.
At the time what brands you could buy were pretty limited. There was Nokia that was dominating the world and then there was this new device, a BlackBerry – simply a phone that could also email. There was an issue though BlackBerrys were not sexy and not all that popular. It’s funny but when I first heard about a movie being made about the creation of BlackBerry but I went back to those thoughts. Why would you make a film about the BlackBerry – it’s not like it had a founder like Steve Jobs whose name has become pseudomonas with technology and there was certainly nothing luxurious about it.
But it didn’t take me very long into my screening of BlackBerry to realise that this was a story that needed to be told. What I thought was going to be a dull affair actually turned into a film that I was loving more and more by the moment.
Directed by Matt Johnson BlackBerry goes right back to the beginning when a small company developed by tech genius Mike (Jay Baruchel) and fun-loving geek Doug (Johnson) had a very big idea. Mike had realized that technology had been put in place that would allow consumers to send emails from mobile devices but to date nobody had created a device that could make use of it.
Mike soon solves that problem and soon has a prototype that is ready to go but that is where he and his crew run into difficulties. First of all it becomes obvious that they have been taken advantage of with their new modem idea and not only does their idea not make any money it places them in debt. The second problem is that nobody seems to understand what Mike has developed and therefore no company wants to get involved with their pet project.
Then they meet career driven Jim (Glenn Howerton). At first he too rejects Mike and Doug but after a change in his employment status decides Mike’s idea could make him a very rich man. It seems like a match made in heaven but with Mike and Doug reluctant to give over full control of their company it seems like this will be a rocky relationship with Jim whose motto is to do anything he can to succeed without caring who he crushes on the way to making it happen.
While the story of Blackberry’s development is not sexy I found that it did provide something perfect for screenwriters Johnson and Matthew Miller. It provided them with just enough twists, turns and drama to keep the audience interested and characters that were one in a million. It is the characterization we see throughout this film that kept me absolutely enthralled while the witty dialogue made me realise that this is the superior film to the ones that it is being compared to – The Social Network and Jobs. If anything the only film in this style that comes close to BlackBerry is the masterpiece, Glengarry Glen Ross.
I think what impressed me most about BlackBerry though is the fact that Johnson and Miller have made some unlikable characters watchable. Doug is a lazy lay-about but through the screenplay becomes a character that I found I often felt sorry for throughout the film while Jim’s win at all costs attitude makes him the kind of character that normally would be the ‘villian’ in a movie like this, yet here his dialogue is so well written that I found myself laughing at his wittier lines and at times you even find yourself barracking for him.
That brilliant screenplay also leads to some amazing acting performances. I wouldn’t be surprised if both Glenn Howerton and Jay Baruchel didn’t find themselves in the running for some nominations come Oscar time. Howerton’s performance is one of the strongest on-screen performances I have seen all year and it will be criminal if he doesn’t at least get a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Meanwhile Baruchel puts in the performance of his lifetime. Of course, he is mostly known for his family or stoner comedy films but here, like he did in the tragic Cosmopolis, Baruchel gets the opportunity to show Hollywood just what a fine actor he can be when given the right script. I felt like his performance was taking me on a journey as he evolved Mike from being a nervous, socially awkward tech-head to a savvy businessman who is determined to not see his dream end.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that BlackBerry is a well written drama with amazing charactersiation and tension. I would not be surprised at all if this wasn’t a sleeper surprise come Oscar time because this is one of the best written and acted films I have seen so far this year.