When I heard that a movie about Blackberry was coming out, I jumped at the chance to review it. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the premiere of a movie set in Waterloo and after two screenings, I think this unique piece of Cancon might just be one of the best movies of the year.
“The following fictionalization is inspired by real people and real events that took place in Waterloo, Ontario” (the opening title card)
The movie takes you on a rollercoaster of a story. Director and star Matt Johnson turned a weird business story into a film that sinks you in your seat anticipating what might happen next. Described by some as a Canadian version of The Social Network, it is a satire shot almost like a nature mockumentary. It centres around Research in Motion (RIM)’s early days, the Blackberry’s meteoric rise and then its infamous fall from grace. Jumping between stress and bliss throughout. You feel like every bad thing that happens will end the company, only to feel immense relief when a solution is found. It shows the fragility of the tech industry and how a bad situation and lack of focus can lead to disaster.
Matt Johnson’s style of filmmaking might be jarring for people used to blockbusters, but it results in a raw charm with relatable characters. The set design paired with an amazing soundtrack conveys the early millennium tech industry vibe and adds to the long list of great elements in the film.
Jay Baruchel, best known for voicing Hiccup Haddock in How To Train Your Dragon, plays RIM’s co-CEO and former UW student and chancellor Mike Lazaridis. Baruchel’s portrayal of the awkward tech nerd hooks you into rooting for him from the beginning with his passion and awkward investor pitches, reading off hastily made cue cards draws sympathy, a far cry from a man that would have QNC and a business school named after him. Glenn Howerton’s amazing performance as Jim Balsille, the other former co-CEO of RIM, embodies the ruthless businessman character. The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia creator shows how his untethered rage can be used to both shock and get laughs from the audience in every scene. If I’m being honest though, what actually got me excited for this movie was seeing Sungwon Cho aka ProZD in the trailer, a popular Youtuber and voice actor. He had a small and honestly kind of forgettable part. I wish there was more of his character, but it’s nice to see him in films, not just his voice. Viewers will be impressed with the cast’s performance overall.
“I’m from Waterloo! Where the vampires hangout!” (Most obscure reference in the movie)
The Waterloo references are plentiful but no UW references unfortunately. If you’re a keen-eyed nerd like me, you’ll spot familiar locales from around the region, like our East Campus buildings which were former RIM offices, RIM Park, the Uptown BMO branch, Google’s Kitchener office, and the skyscrapers of Phillip street. The city was used more as a plot device for characters to wonder “How did this technology come from the middle of nowhere Canada?”, a humbling description of the city.
I really enjoyed this film — it is definitely one of the best tech/business movies I have ever seen. Everyone should go to laugh at the absurdity of seeing Waterloo on the big screen. You won’t regret seeing this uniquely shot, well-paced, and hilarious interpretation of Research in Motion. Blackberry has been in Cineplex and Landmark theatres since May 12 and is playing at Princess Twin in Uptown starting May 26.