Films at the Fox: BlackBerry executed with vision and style

Jay Baruchel plays Matt Lazaridis in the movie BlackBerry. The movie is set to be shown at the Fox Theatre in the Beach from June 9 to 15. Photo: IFC Films.

Local student Brady Burkett shares his reviews of movies that have recently been shown, or will be shown, at the Fox Theatre on Queen Street East in the Beach.


I am not old enough to remember the announcement and subsequent release of the iPhone, but even I can understand the impact it has had on society. An impact pretty much universally acknowledged to be negative, but a massive one nonetheless.

Megacorporation that Apple is, they really did tap into something special and truly revolutionary with the device, managing to combine a simple design and accessible concept with surprising depth, leaving everyone else in the industry in the dust. It truly is the full realization of Henry Ford’s famous quote, “If you asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

That said, once the aforementioned dust had settled, people began to nostalgically look back on the corporations that Apple had kicked it in the face of, including, of course, the BlackBerry.

I am told, both by people of generations older than mine and by Matt Johnson’s recent film itself that everyone had one of these things. I recall my father’s own, as he was one of the final people to switch over to the iPhone. It only makes sense, then, to adapt this story into a movie, one centring around the meteoric rise and excruciating fall of BlackBerry, and all of the insanity and corruption that went on along the way.

BlackBerry stars Jay Baruchel and Matt Johnson (the director himself) as Matt Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, two nerds living in Waterloo, Ontario attempting to create a device that works both as a cell phone and to send emails. They begin working with Jim Balsillie, a shrewd and money-hungry businessman who is fired from his job and decides to help them out. Together, the movie shows them gradually become corrupted by power, slowly but surely planting the seeds for their downfall as their empire comes crashing down around them.

The film manages to be both extremely thrilling and tense throughout, taking advantage of the fact that we all know what happens to BlackBerry to make us continue waiting for the other shoe to drop. Forgone conclusions are a classic storytelling device dating back to Ancient Greece, but it’s been used so much because it works, and BlackBerry uses it to great effect.

Despite this constant building tension, it also manages to be primarily a comedy, and an extremely funny one at that. Matt Johnson as Doug especially gets plenty of comedic moments to shine, but everyone has their moments, and the biggest laughs of the movie probably come from Glenn Howerton as Jim (“I’m from WATERLOO! Where the VAMPIRES hang out!”)

The direction also adds to both the humour and tension excellently. The film is shot in sort of handheld guerilla documentary-esque style (think The Office) and despite the lack of talking heads or direct acknowledgement of the camera it nonetheless properly feels like one throughout. The claustrophobia inherent to this style works to add to the thriller elements while also perfectly complimenting the comedy when it needs to.

For example, in one scene the new CFO of BlackBerry, played by Michael Ironside, comes down to talk to the tech crew and accuses them of being “little boys” who need to “become men”. The camera decides to zoom directly in on the only woman in the tech crew, her face a blank mix of confusion and terror. It’s priceless.

The performances are great across the board, filled with B-listers who you probably “know from that thing” but who all do an excellent job portraying their characters. Both Baruchel and Howerton are unfortunately forced to wear absolutely hideous wigs throughout that not for a moment look convincing (especially Howerton’s awful bald cap with its uncannily massive forehead), but they do a great job otherwise.

Baruchel plays the character’s journey from shy nerd to corporate sleeze very well, hitting all of the necessary beats, even if his performance as the nerd was noticeably better. Howerton is excellent, as his perceived competence is slowly chipped away at over the course of the movie.

The film isn’t flawless, however. Although the pacing is for the most part really excellent at keeping the viewer engaged (something movies of this kind quite frequently fail at), it sometimes makes some somewhat jarring blips in time, like skipping directly from the awkward first pitch meeting to the company’s peak.

Similarly, I feel that, although Baruchel plays it commendably, his character’s arc is somewhat rushed, with maybe one more step being needed to fully sell me on it. And I have previously mentioned the awful wigs.

Still, those end up being ultimately nitpicks in the long run. It’s an excellently written script (there are some fantastic setups and payoffs throughout) executed with vision and style that remains engaging from beginning to end. It’s also wonderfully Canadian and proud to be so, filled to the brim with little Canadianisms that add plenty of colour and flavour throughout.

With how well this turned out, I can’t wait to check out Matt Johnson’s other projects. Be sure to give this a watch.

I give it a rating of nine out of 10.

The Fox Theatre is located at 2236 Queen St. E. BlackBerry is scheduled to be screened on June 9 through to June 15 at the Fox. For more information on upcoming films playing at the Fox, please visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brady Burkett is a local resident and high school student. The opinions in the reviews are his, and the reviews are not sponsored or vetted by the Fox Theatre.

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