(director/writer: Matt Johnson; screenwriters: Matt Miller/based on the book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry” by Jacquie McNish, Sean Silcoff; cinematographer: Jared Raab; editor: Curt Lobb; music: Jay McCarrol; cast: Jay Baruchel (Mike Lazaridis), Glenn Howerton (Jim Balsillie), Matt Johnson (Doug Fregin), Rich Sommer (Paul), Michael Ironside (Purdy), Martin Donovan (), Michelle Giroux (Dara), Sungwon Cho (Ritchie), Mark Critch (Bettman), Saul Rubinek (Woodman), Cary Elwes (Yankowskie); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Niv Fichman, Matthew Miller, Fraser Ash, Kevin Krikst; IFC Films; 2023-Canada)
“Meandering but entertaining.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Matt Johnson (“The Dirties”) is a Canadian actor. He tells the cautionary tale of that once-revolutionary infamous invention out of Waterloo, Ontario, and those zany techies at Research in Motion (RIM) who developed the first smartphone in the early 2000s that gave way to the iPhone in 2010. Its product changed the way we looked at the world. Johnson and co-writer Matt Miller base the film on the book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry” by Jacquie McNish & Sean Silcoff.
The meandering but entertaining film tells of the Canadian companies origins of putting a computer in a phone and its strategy to fight for its survival and against its competitors later on. It adequately covers the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as it began looking into things as new competitors enter the marketplace to bring additional pressure on the besieged company.
The Johnson movie wisely uses as stars the company’s co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), the former a guileless brainy guy and the latter a cunning operator who somehow managed to see the positive in one of the most inept investor presentations imaginable.
The movie itself is a reflection of these two goofy leaders, and results in a stranger-than-fiction workplace comedy, that morphs into a thriller about the company’s downfall.
I never had a Blackberry (though presidents and the rich and famous did, as well as average folks). The cultish pic never made me share the company’s or its consumer’s joy over the product. But it was fun getting to know the nerds who ran things for this endearing Canadian enterprise.
This might be a film mostly for those with fond memories for the life-changing innovative product, or for those who wanted some inside scoop of what went wrong with the company that couldn’t advance their primitive product further when challenged by the soon-to-be superior Apple iPhone (introduced in 2007).
It played at the Berlin Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 2/19/2023 GRADE: B-