BlackBerry
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMatt Johnson
Screenplay by
Based on
Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry
by
  • Jacquie McNish
  • Sean Silcoff
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyJared Raab
Edited byCurt Lobb
Music byJay McCarrol
Production
companies
Distributed byElevation Pictures
Release dates
  • February 17, 2023 (2023-02-17) (Berlin)
  • May 12, 2023 (2023-05-12) (Canada)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryCanada[1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$5 million[2]
Box office$3 million[3][4]

BlackBerry is a 2023 Canadian biographical comedy-drama film directed by Matt Johnson from a script by Johnson and producer Matthew Miller. It was loosely[5][6] adapted from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff's book Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry. The film is a fictional[7] account of the creation of the BlackBerry line of mobile phone by co-founders Douglas Fregin and Mike Lazaridis, and investor Jim Balsillie. Lazaridis is portrayed by Jay Baruchel, Balsillie is portrayed by Glenn Howerton, and Fregin is portrayed by Johnson. It also stars Rich Sommer, Michael Ironside, Martin Donovan, Michelle Giroux, SungWon Cho, Mark Critch, Saul Rubinek, and Cary Elwes in supporting roles.

BlackBerry premiered in competition at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival on February 17, 2023. The film was released in Canada on May 12, 2023, to positive reviews. In late 2023, Blackberry was re-released as a three-part miniseries with additional footage.

The film is the most nominated film in the history of the Canadian Screen Awards, with 17 nominations. It won 14 awards, including Best Motion Picture.[8]

Plot

In Waterloo, 1996, Research in Motion (RIM) CEO Mike Lazaridis and his best friend and co-founder Douglas Fregin prepare to pitch their "PocketLink" cellular device to businessman Jim Balsillie. Lazaridis is bothered by the buzzing of Balsillie's China-manufactured intercom and fixes it before Balsillie arrives to the meeting. Their pitch is unsuccessful, but after Balsillie is fired from his job due to his aggressive ambition, he offers to invest $20,000 for 50% of the company and a position as CEO. Lazaridis, prompted by Fregin, initially declines Balsillie's offer, but after confirming Balsillie's suspicion that their $16 million deal with USRobotics was in bad faith, they bring Balsillie in as a co-CEO with Lazaridis and sell him a 33% stake in RIM for $125,000. After joining RIM, Balsillie discovers that the company is in a dire financial position and he mortgages his house to add a cash infusion to make payroll.

Balsillie arranges a pitch for the PocketLink with Bell Atlantic and forces Fregin and Lazaridis to build a crude prototype overnight, which he and Lazaridis take to New York. Lazaridis forgets the prototype in their taxi, leaving Balsillie to attempt the pitch alone. Lazaridis recovers the prototype at the last second and finishes the pitch, and they rebrand the PocketLink as the "BlackBerry", which becomes massively successful.

In 2003, Palm CEO Carl Yankowski plans a hostile takeover of the immensely successful RIM, forcing Balsillie to try to raise RIM's stockprice by selling more phones than Bell Atlantic's (now Verizon Communications) network can support. This crashes the network, as Lazaridis had warned, so Balsillie poaches engineers from around the world to fix the problem, as well as hiring a man named Charles Purdy as RIM's COO to keep the engineers in line, though this upsets Fregin, who values the casual and fun work environment he and Lazaridis had created. The new engineers fix the network issue under Purdy's strict management, and RIM avoids Yankowski's buyout.

In 2007, RIM's upcoming pitch of the BlackBerry Bold to Verizon is thrown into chaos when Steve Jobs announces the iPhone. Balsillie, a hockey fan with a long-term ambition of owning an NHL team, is occupied with trying to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, forcing Lazaridis to pitch the Bold with Fregin instead. When it goes poorly, he panics and impulsively promises them the "Storm", a BlackBerry with a touchscreen. As he finally agrees with Purdy's suggestion to outsource the labor of the Storm to China, he insults Fregin during an argument. Fregin later quits RIM as a result.

Balsillie becomes nervous when he sees the iPhone's projected sales and tries to arrange a meeting with AT&T's CEO, only to learn that the Penguins sale is being finalized that day. He prioritizes the Penguins but is rejected when the NHL owners reveal knowledge of his plan to move the team to Hamilton, which they learned of through his boasting to Yankowski. The US SEC raid RIM after learning that Balsillie hired the engineers in 2003 with illegally backdated stock options, threatening Lazaridis with legal action. Balsillie misses his chance to meet with AT&T's CEO, who snubs Balsillie by hinting that AT&T's partnership with Apple is predicated on the fact that data usage has superseded phone minutes as a priority. Balsillie returns to RIM to find that Lazaridis has exposed him to the SEC, leaving Lazaridis as the sole CEO of RIM.

One year later, the Storms arrive from China, but Lazaridis finds them to be laden with bugs and can hear buzzing when he holds one to his ear. As he begins manually fixing the buzzing phones one by one, the closing titles reveal that the Storms were almost universally inoperable and Verizon sued RIM to cover the financial loss. Lazaridis resigned as CEO in 2012, Balsillie avoided jail, and Fregin became one of the richest men in the world by selling his stock in 2007. At the height of its success, the BlackBerry phone made up 45% of the cell phone market and is now 0% in the present day, with BlackBerry phones no longer being produced.

Cast

Production

Principal photography took place from June to August 2022 in the Ontario cities of Hamilton, London, Burlington and Waterloo.[11][12][13] Additional scenes were filmed in Silicon Valley, California.[11] In June, the London International Airport was used to film multiple airport scenes, employing local residents as background actors.[14]

Release

BlackBerry premiered in competition at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival on February 17, 2023.[15] IFC Films acquired the rights to distribute the film in the United States,[16] with Paramount Global Content Distribution acquiring multiple international territories for distribution.[17][18] The film was released in Canada on May 12, 2023, by Elevation Pictures.[19][1]

In January 2024 Elevation Pictures struck a 35 mm print of the film to screen and it closed TIFF's Canada's Top Ten at the TIFF Lightbox. Johnson and guest Vass Bednar led a Q&A after the screening. The print would later be screened in the United States.[20]

Television miniseries

An extended, serialized version of the film began airing as a three-part miniseries on CBC Television and the CBC Gem streaming service on November 9, 2023. It includes 16 minutes of additional footage that was not part of the theatrical release.[21][22] In the United States the series aired on AMC and streamed on AMC+, on November 13, 2023.[23]

Reception

Critical response

Glenn Howerton received critical acclaim for his role in the film.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 98% of 209 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The website's consensus reads: "With intelligence as sharp as its humor, BlackBerry takes a terrifically entertaining look at the rise and fall of a generation-defining gadget."[24] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 78 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[25]

Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail named the film as third of the 23 best Canadian comedy films ever made.[26] The film was named to the Toronto International Film Festival's annual Canada's Top Ten list for 2023.[27] It was also named as the fourth-best film of 2023 by film critic Cory Woodroof for USA Today's For the Win. [28]

Former company executives have taken issues and raised concerns at the magnitude of fiction presented in the movie, with some considering it to be offensive to RIM's legacy.[29] Jim Ballsilie has said his on-screen depiction as an aggressive and morally-dubious businessman is almost entirely fictional and inaccurate to how he was while at RIM. Despite this, Jim received the film positively and praised Glenn Howerton's performance of himself as being "brilliant".[30]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Berlin International Film Festival February 25, 2023 Golden Bear BlackBerry Nominated [31]
Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Film Awards June 30, 2023 Best Picture Nominated [32]
Best Indie Runner-up
Best Supporting Actor Glenn Howerton Won
Gotham Independent Film Awards November 27, 2023 Outstanding Supporting Performance Nominated [33]
National Board of Review December 6, 2023 Top 10 Independent Films BlackBerry Won[a] [34]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 12, 2023 Best Supporting Actor Glenn Howerton Nominated [35]
IndieWire Critics Poll December 11, 2023 Best Performance 10th Place[b] [36]
Georgia Film Critics Association Awards January 5, 2024 Best Supporting Actor Glenn Howerton Nominated [37]
[38]
Astra Film and Creative Arts Awards January 6, 2024 Best Comedy Feature BlackBerry Nominated [39]
Best Supporting Actor Glenn Howerton Nominated
Game Changer Award Won [40]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle February 12, 2024 Best Canadian Film BlackBerry Won [41]
Best Director of a Canadian Film Matt Johnson Won
Best Male Actor in a Canadian Film Jay Baruchel Won
Best Supporting Male Actor in a Canadian Film Matt Johnson Nominated
Glenn Howerton Won
Best Screenplay for a Canadian Film Matt Johnson and Matthew Miller Won
Independent Spirit Awards February 25, 2024 Best Supporting Performance Glenn Howerton Nominated [42]
Toronto Film Critics Association March 4, 2024 Outstanding Supporting Performance Glenn Howerton Runner-up[c] [43]
Outstanding Performance in a Canadian Film Won
Jay Baruchel Runner-up[d]
Rogers Best Canadian Film Award Matt Johnson Won [44]
Canadian Screen Awards May 2024 Best Picture Niv Fichman, Matthew Miller, Fraser Ash, Kevin Krikst Won [45]
Best Direction Matt Johnson Won
Best Lead Performance in a Comedy Film Jay Baruchel Won
Best Supporting Performance in a Comedy Film Glenn Howerton Won
Matt Johnson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Matt Johnson, Matthew Miller Won
Best Art Direction/Production Design Adam Belanger, Kerry Noonan, Lucy Larkin Won
Best Cinematography Jared Raab Won
Best Costume Design Hanna Puley Won
Best Editing Curt Lobb Won
Best Sound Editing Matthew Chan, Gabe Knox, Michelle Irving, Lucas Prokaziuk, Stefan Fraticelli, Jason Charbonneau Won
Best Sound Mixing Matthew Chan, Bret Killoran, Nathan Street, Paul Lynch, Randy Wilson, Ron Mellegers, Justin Helle Won
Best Original Score Jay McCarrol Won
Best Makeup Ashley Vieira, Erin Sweeney, Thea Samuels Nominated
Best Hair Dylan Twigg, Philippe Bertrand-Hudon Won
Best Visual Effects Tristan Zerafa, Lou Gatti, Matthew Nayman, Mike Boers Nominated
Best Casting in a Film Pam Dixon, Jenny Lewis, Sara Kay Won

Notes

  1. ^ This award does not have a single winner, but recognizes multiple films.
  2. ^ Tied with Benoit Magimel for Pacifiction, Koji Yakusho for Perfect Days and Franz Rogowski for Passages.
  3. ^ Shared with Robert De Niro for Killers of the Flower Moon, Robert Downey Jr. for Oppenheimer, and Charles Melton for May December.
  4. ^ Shared with Théodore Pellerin for Solo.

References

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  2. ^ Eric Kohn (May 10, 2023). "How to Make a Modern Period Piece for $5 Million: Behind the Scenes of 'BlackBerry'". IndieWire. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  3. ^ "BlackBerry (2023) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  4. ^ "BlackBerry (2023)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  5. ^ Blackberry trailer reaction and talking about RIM back in the days, April 5, 2023, retrieved July 16, 2023
  6. ^ Glasner, Eli (May 12, 2023). "Chaotic, comedic and surprisingly personal — thumbs up for Jay Baruchel's BlackBerry". CBC News.
  7. ^ "Don't expect a biopic: 'BlackBerry' filmmakers on walking a line of fact and fiction". CTVNews. March 7, 2023. Retrieved July 16, 2023.
  8. ^ Knight, Chris (March 6, 2024). "BlackBerry the most nominated film in Canadian Screen Awards history". The National Post. Retrieved March 27, 2024.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Press Kit". Elevation Pictures. February 15, 2023. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  10. ^ "Review: Opening this week: Matt Johnson's riotous BlackBerry is an instant Canadian classic". The Globe and Mail. February 17, 2023. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  11. ^ a b "Binge-watch BlackBerry, the new original series on CBC Gem". CBC.ca. November 7, 2023. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  12. ^ Hertz, Barry (August 23, 2022). "BlackBerry: Canadian film starring Jay Baruchel to chronicle rise and fall of Research In Motion". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  13. ^ Ravindran, Manori (August 23, 2022). "BlackBerry: Story of Doomed Smartphone Company Casts Jay Baruchel & Glenn Howerton, XYZ Films Boards Sales for TIFF (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  14. ^ Hyshka, Ashley (June 4, 2022). "London airport in the spotlight as filming for new movie takes place Saturday". CTV News. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  15. ^ "BlackBerry". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  16. ^ Ravindran, Manori (September 8, 2022). "IFC Films Buys BlackBerry Movie, About World's First Smartphone (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
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  27. ^ Pat Mullen, "TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Includes BlackBerry, Solo, Humanist Vampire". That Shelf, December 6, 2023.
  28. ^ Cory Woodroof, [1]. Cory Woodroof's Top 20 films of 2023, including Oppenheimer and Barbie, of course , January 3, 2024.
  29. ^ Kavelman, Dennis (May 11, 2023). "Dennis Kavelman: I was a longtime senior leader at BlackBerry. The new movie is not our story". National Post. Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  30. ^ What the real Jim Balsillie thinks about the Blackberry movie, May 12, 2023, retrieved August 10, 2023
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  32. ^ Anderson, Erik (June 30, 2023). "Hollywood Critics Association 2023 Midseason HCA Awards: 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,' 'Past Lives,' 'Air' are Top Winners". AwardsWatch. Archived from the original on July 1, 2023. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  33. ^ Lang, Clayton Davis, Brent; Davis, Clayton; Lang, Brent (October 24, 2023). "Gotham Awards Nominations: 'All of Us Strangers' Leads With Four Nominations". Variety. Retrieved October 25, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Davis, Clayton (November 6, 2023). "'Killers of the Flower Moon' Named Best Picture by National Board of Review, Lily Gladstone and Paul Giamatti Nab Top Acting Honors". Variety. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  35. ^ Tallerico, Brian (December 8, 2023). "Killers of the Flower Moon, Oppenheimer, Poor Things Lead CFCA Nominations". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
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  37. ^ Neglia, Matt (December 29, 2023). "The 2023 Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA) Nominations". Next Best Picture. Retrieved December 30, 2023.
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  40. ^ Schneider, Michael (December 1, 2023). "HCA Awards Rebrands as 'The Astra Awards'; Jeffrey Wright, Abby Ryder Fortson, Glenn Howerton to Receive Honors (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
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