Blackberry is a modern retelling of Icarus, the tech company that flew too close to the sun.
Many biopics on tech companies have come out recently recounting Silicon Valley’s stratospheric success in the last decades. We’ve seen the stories behind giants like Facebook and Apple, along with the in-fighting and rivalries that come with the territory.
Directed by Matt Johnson, Blackberry tells the story of how the iconic handset became a zeitgeist of 2000s tech, but in a totally different way: “I told the cameras to follow their instincts, I never directed them in a professional way and I am so glad I didn’t because the product is organic.”
Described by the director as “Not something you expect on the history of a phone,” it brings together a cast of highly credible nerds with the agency to act as they see fit, providing the audience with a comedic yet chaotic history of the company.
Johnson said the idea of the movie came to him when he realised the Blackberry company was Canadian, “Other than Hockey, Canada is not known for much, internationally, and here was something I saw that made me think … this is something we can be really proud of, say what you will about how cell-phones have damaged our society.”
He continues: “I don’t think they got enough credit for the product they created.”
It’s no spoiler to say Blackberrys are no longer in use, however, there was a time when the Canadian company ruled the telephone market and pioneered many of the tech features we have grown accustomed to – if not totally dependent on – today.
The movie is a fictionalization of real events which started an hour and a half away from Toronto in 1996, where a group of very naïve nerds joined forces and created a tech company under the name of “Research In Motion”.
Their CEO, Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel), is a genius but has extremely low self-esteem and no social skills, to the point where his best friend and fellow engineer, Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson), has to act as his spokesperson.
The company is working, like most others at the time, on creating the ground-breaking feat of making a telephone which also works as a computer but unlike their corporate giant competitors, RIM hold the secret to cracking the code.
Whilst cutting-edge, they struggle to make their way into the industry as they often find themselves taken advantage of by bigger companies that exploit their lack of business acumen.
Their luck changes when they meet a financial shark, Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton). Recently unemployed and in need of a strong investment prospect Balsillie quickly turns around the company and gives the engineers what they need: confidence and contacts.
Blackberry travels through time providing insight into the most significant years of the company: 1996 as its birth year, 2003 as its take-off, 2005 with the Western World domination and 2007 as the beginning of its downfall, with the launch of Apple’s iPhone.
Throughout these small peaks in the window of time, we watch an endearing group of friends go through highs and lows before losing themselves and their friendship to their product with Lazaridis unrecognisable by the end of the movie.
Featured Image Credit: Glasgow Film Festival