BlackBerry {Melbourne International Film Festival} – Film Review

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.

It’s probably difficult for many to fathom, but there was a time before mobile phones. I remember buying my first one when I was at university, due to a friend who was tired of not being able to contact me when I wasn’t home.

At the time, the brands you could choose from were quite 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 nor at all that popular. It’s funny, but when I first heard about a movie being made about the creation of BlackBerry, I went back to those very thoughts. However, 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 would be a dull affair actually turned into a film that I loved more and more at every 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 solved that problem and not long after has a prototype that is ready to go, although this is where he and his team run into difficulties. Firstly, 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, but it also places them in debt. Secondly, nobody seems to understand what Mike has developed and therefore no company wants to be involved with their pet project.

Then the two they meet career driven Jim (Glenn Howerton) and at first, he too rejects Mike and Doug’s idea. But after a change in his employment status, Jim decides that 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 appears that this will be a rocky relationship, as Jim’s motto is to do anything he can to succeed without caring who he crushes on the way.

While the story of Blackberry’s development is not sexy, I found that it did provide something perfect for screenwriters Matt Johnson and Matthew Miller. It provided them with just enough drama, twists, and turns to keep audiences interested in characters that were one in a million. It is the characterisation that kept me enthralled while the witty dialogue made me realise that this is a superior film in comparison to similar genre films, The Social Network and Jobs.

I think what impressed me the 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, he becomes a character that I often felt sorry for. While Jim’s ‘win at all costs’ attitude made him the kind of character that normally plays the villain role, 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.

The brilliant screenplay also leads to some amazing acting performances, and 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 would be criminal for him to not receive at least 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, however here Baruchel gets the opportunity to show what a fine actor he can be when given the right script. His performance took me on a journey where his character Mike evolved from being a nervous and socially awkward tech-head to a savvy businessman determined to not see his dream end.

BlackBerry is one of the best written and acted films that I have seen so far this year.

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