Films about failure are, in general, much more satisfying to the viewer than films about success. All that schadenfreude! That is why “ Blackberry” is so much better than “ Air”. The sad tale of the decade-long rise of the Canadian mobile phone company, which cornered an astonishing 45% of the world market in 2006, only to plummet to 0% within months (slight exaggeration!) after Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in January 2007. Not that you should cry into your soup for these guys. Most of them ended up as multimillionaires and either retired or went on to other things.
It was an embarrassment to Canada, so it’s fitting that this is a Canadian production with a Canadian director and numerous Canadian actors. I’m surprised Lorne Michaels didn’t get in on the act.
The multi-talented Matthew Johnson (he co-wrote the adapted screenplay with producer Matthew Miller) directs with a light touch but knows when to pull the emotional punches when needed. He also plays the film’s third lead, Douglas Fregin, who the movie paints as a sweet soul who always looked, whether inside or outside the office like he was ready to play a game of tennis – he never removed his John McEnroe headband.
It was Fregin who, together with the film’s other technical genius Mike Lazaradis (Jay Baruchel from the Judd Apatow family), cofounded RIM (Research in Motion), the precursor of Blackberry in the late nineties. And if Lazaradis is the brain behind Blackberry, then Glenn Howerton’s Jim Balsillie or, as it is constantly mispronounced, BAL-SILLY – it’s the film’s running gag) is the brawn. The marketing force behind the Blackberry brand, he bulldozes through one boardroom after another like an animated cock-and-balls. Balsillie is the yin to Lazaradis’ yang, and Baruchel and Howerton complement one another at every turn. The scene where Balsillie threatens to buy the Pittsburgh Steelers, make them a hockey team, and transport them to Canada is a testosterone explosion!
The acting is consistently good right down to the smallest parts with truly excellent work by Saul Rubinek, Martin Donovan, and Cary Elwes in various suits, all with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, and a brilliant one by Michael Ironside as someone whose function I’m still not quite sure of but, definitely, a character who loved to throw his weight around both literally and figuratively. He’s the spirit of the movie.