Comments Off on BlackBerry

Matt Johnson’s film BlackBerry (2023) takes its dramatic and aesthetic cues from The Social Network (2010) to tell the story of founders Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel), Doug Fregin (director Matt Johnson) and co-CEO Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) as they make and break the BlackBerry phone. It’s a surreal experience to see something that feels like recent history treated as a period piece even though it has been almost thirty years since the BlackBerry came out. There is no way to quantify the impact that this invention had on technology, culture, and our fundamental way of living.

But BlackBerry isn’t a film about the public, widespread ramifications of the titular device. Johnson’s film is about the Machiavellian maneuvers that went on behind the scenes at RIM (Research In Motion). Manipulations, bullying, and betrayals are seemingly the norm in Johnson’s film. It’s a riveting account of well-off white guys getting unimaginably rich only to end up, well, normal rich again.

It isn’t exactly a cautionary tale as much as a “true crime” narrative reimagined as a corporate melodrama. The film leaps and bounds through the history of RIM from one catastrophe to another, savoring all the twisting of the knives along the way. BlackBerry may, in terms of story, chart the rise and fall of a company, but conceptually the film is interested in moral corruption caused by capitalism.

While this particular chapter in history may not have been the subject of a narrative feature before, the aesthetic gestures and politics of BlackBerry are nothing new. BlackBerry amounts to a well made, entertaining slice of cinema that never subverts expectations nor challenge assumptions. The film you saw in the trailer is exactly the movie you get.

Even though there is nothing wrong with BlackBerry in particular, it is indicative of the creative bankruptcy in the mainstream of cinema today. The Social Network is more than a decade old and yet it is still inspiring cookie-cutter imitations. Films like BlackBerry are diverting but they are not engaging or provocative. They are the highbrow equivalent of Disney’s MCU that targets intellectuals rather than teens and nostalgia junkies.