The “Barbenheimer” effect will feature prominently in every film critic’s review of 2023. But it’s also been quite a year for a very specific type of workplace drama.
Air (trainers), Tetris (video game), and The Beanie Baby (soft toy) all tried to find suspense and comedy in the launch of a hit consumer product.
BlackBerry, an irreverent account of the rise and sudden demise of the titular smartphone, is the latest example. It’s also the most successful.
The story begins in 1996 with a gang of Canadian nerds goofing around in an industrial estate in Waterloo, Ontario.
Tech company Research In Motion is run by softly spoken CEO Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel), a brilliant engineer, a terrible manager, and an even worse businessman.
His nominal second-in-command is best pal Doug Fregin (amusingly played by the film’s writer-director Matt Johnson) who sees an office as a place to play video games with like-minded geeks.
But they share a dream bestowed upon them by a high school teacher who said: “The person who puts a computer inside a phone will change the world”.
And when Research In Motion starts developing a smartphone, their teacher’s prophetic quote is the dramatic finale to their cringeworthy funding pitch.
Their potential investor is the short-tempered Jim Balsillie (a brilliant Glenn Howerton) who works for an engineering firm.
Shortly after throwing them out of his office, Jim loses it with his boss and gets fired. He needs a life raft and wonders if the geeks’ idea could hold water. A deal sees Jim become “joint CEO” with Mike and the only grown up in the office.
Jim orders the team to make a prototype he can show to telecoms company Bell Atlantic.
Using a calculator, a TV remote, a Nintendo Game Boy, and a Speak & Spell, Mike knocks up the first working BlackBerry in one night.
Despite leaving it in the back of a taxi on the way to the meeting, a deal is done and the clickety-click of the BlackBerry keyboard becomes a defining sound of the Noughties. But the fairytale ends when Steve Jobs releases the button-free iPhone.
Pacy, well-acted, and brilliantly written, this boardroom farce pushes all right the buttons.
BlackBerry, Cert 15, In cinemas now