Directed By Matt Johnson

Starring – Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson

The Plot – A company that toppled global giants before succumbing to the ruthlessly competitive forces of Silicon Valley. This is not a conventional tale of modern business failure by fraud and greed. The rise and fall of BlackBerry reveals the dangerous speed at which innovators race along the information superhighway.

Rated R for adult language throughout

BlackBerry – Official Trailer ft. Jay Baruchel & Glenn Howerton | HD | IFC Films – YouTube


After the game-changing successes of “The Social Network” and “Steve Jobs”, paving the trail for stories about the technological boom of the 21st century, along comes “Blackberry”, the most passionately invigorating big step forward from actor and director Matt Johnson, who conjures an infectiously engaging cautionary tale about corporate greed that demands the big screen treatment. Johnson’s emotional dexterity is most apparent here, conjuring an effortlessly enticing dynamic within the confines of his intoxicating dialogue that not only keeps his audience invested in every word between respective sides throughout the many spontaneous developments, but also helps in further fleshing out the bombastic personalities of so many off-the-wall characters involved. Johnson’s presentation emphatically mirrors this sentiment, tapping into the visual familiarity of Adam McKay’s mockumentary style of cinematic storytelling, which only further emphasizes the ironies and atmospheric immersion of the movie’s many important talking points of characterization, which helps to illustrate the growing issues that eventually cement a company’s untimely demise. At the forefront of this element is the dynamic between Mike and Jim, which feel like the perfect combination of one complete Chief Executive, but scattered between two people who make up for what the other lacks. Mike is of course the brains of the operation, but lacks commitment in trying to be the face of a company, and the tightly-wounded Jim is powerfully intimidating, yet can’t tell you anything about the internal workings of the product that he is trying to sell you. Together, these two are a machine that often desecrates anyone or anything in their way, but when separated leaves a lot of open vulnerabilities in the demands that breed uncertainty for what’s to come with a currently prominent company. Adding to this, Johnson capably illustrates not only the accessibility at the time for any company to tap into the gap in techological advancements, but also the cut-throat capitalism of the corporate world, where the weakly inexperienced are often trampled over by someone with a bigger upgrade to their original concept. Johnson’s tonal plausibilities are always accordingly rendered to the integrity of the scenes they seamlessly accommodate, with zany silliness during the opening half of the film that takes us through the awkwardness of Blackberry becoming a legitimate company, but also thick dramatic tension during the film’s unpredictable second half, which sows the seeds of devastation for a deconstructive climax that hits the audience just as hard as it hits the figures involved in such a hostile takeover. For performances, the film is blessed by an exceptional ensemble, but particularly in the work of Baruchel and Howerton, who command attention inside of two meaningful turns that couldn’t be anymore polarly opposite. For Baruchel, the nervous ticks of his nerdy familiarity are certainly still there, but a dramatic takeover of the film’s second half imbeds a gritty nervousness to his portrayal that continuously unravels like a ticking timebomb, leaving the audience anxious for the moment it blows through anyone and everything in his way. Howerton however, is the showstealer for me, feeling like a descendent of J.K Simmons Oscar-winning turn in “Whiplash”, but with a cunning hunger for blood that feels like a shark surrounding his prey. Anyone can yell frantically throughout a film, but what Howerton does is integral in motivating his cohorts to seek out their true potential, in turn serving him unapologetically unleashed as the protagonist of choice who we faithfully follow, even if his morals never swim far from shallow waters. When these two actors share the screen, it leads to some of the best moments of the entire film, and with two shape-shifting turns that helps to break some of the preconceived perceptions about each of their capabilities, gives them the perfect opportunity for the first time in their careers to grasp the occasion and truly make it their own.


Though a nearly two hour runtime seems like it would provide ample opportunity to convey the extent of this important story, the evidence of rushed execution starts to creep into the transition sequences of the film’s second half, where the film abruptly jumps years ahead, leaving us adjusting to the changes in the company and any ensuing updates before the storytelling can start moving again. Where it’s a major issue is in the underutilized emphasis of Blackberry enjoying some even momentary success for their brand and cultural impact, with only a couple of lines of dialogue signifying the cause for the change that they instilled on their competition. Understating this element doesn’t necessarily void stakes from the film’s confrontational climax, but it does leave Blackberry’s success story feeling like an overnight success instead of a technological landmark for the eventual change that was forced to come, instead prescribing more focus to the rise and fall of the story that rushes through key moments of development in the climax of the company that would better serve a series for thorough analyzing. Beyond this, my only other problem with the film pertained to some temporary nagging within the soundtrack choices, which materialized a bit on the nose while in the confines of the scenes and sequences they accommodated. In the lyrical sense, the songs drift a bit too closely to the sun with what they’re musically echoing, removing a bit of the organic tissue during so many unpredictable instances that would’ve been better suited with an instrumental score.

“Blackberry” is a stunningly shot and riveting rise and fall cautionary tale about the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of 21st century capitalism, but particularly the world’s first smart phone, which oddly wasn’t smart enough to evade the fire. With caustic perfection in personality from Johnson’s direction, as well as two spine-tingling turns from Baruchel and Howerton, this smart-tech taut thriller is the very best company biopic in a year overflowing with them, cementing a must-watch screwball procedural about a doomed product whose biggest crime was being conceived before its time.

My Grade: 8/10 or A-

2 thoughts on “Blackberry

  1. I love how you started off by pointing out how movies like The Social Network and Steve Jobs let to another technological biopic that shows the passion of the director/actor that made it. I also love your comparison to Adam McKay when it comes to the style of storytelling even though it didn’t always work for me. I also agree with your negatives regarding the passage of time and found it weird that movie rarely ever emphasized the success of Blackberry. All that being said, this was so entertaining and your review absolutely did it justice. Hope this one gets some attention because it really deserves it! Fantastic review!

  2. This film does not seem in my normal scope so may put it on the back burner. It does sound like an interesting watch though, thank you for the review.

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