Verdict: This biographical film is gripping, surprisingly funny and thrilling, with a standout performance from Glenn Howerton

This comedy-drama depicts the phenomenal rise and tragic fall of the BlackBerry smartphone.

Before the iPhone, there was the BlackBerry, the world’s first smartphone as we know them today.

Matt Johnson’s comedy-drama begins in 1996 with childhood buddies Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Johnson) pitching their smartphone device to a corporation. They are genius innovators but they are not businessmen and do not know how to pitch their product.

That’s where ruthless businessman Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) comes in – after being fired from that corporation, he joins Lazaridis and Fregin’s small Canadian company, Research in Motion (RIM), and promises to make BlackBerry huge.

The rest of the film is divided into two defining time periods – 2003, when the BlackBerry is the most popular phone in the world, and 2007/8, when sales dwindle and they cannot compete with the iPhone.

Most “based on a true story” films take liberties with the truth so it’s a breath of fresh air seeing a disclaimer that BlackBerry is a fictionalised version of events. It is loosely based on the book, Losing the Signal, so it is rooted in fact but certain moments have been created or embellished for dramatic reasons.

Thanks to this fictionalised storytelling device, this biographical film is gripping and surprisingly funny, with some tense, thrilling moments in there too.

While the story about the product’s popularity and growth is interesting in itself, the human side of the story is more compelling. The dynamics between the trio evolve throughout the years and Balsillie drives a wedge between the childhood besties. Lazaridis slowly morphs into a cutthroat businessman like Balsillie while Fregin stays a hippie slacker – and this tension builds to a satisfying conclusion.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Howerton is the standout as Balsillie, who is both the hero (he made the phone popular) and the villain (he also made some questionable decisions) of the piece. He is greedy and determined and will let nothing stand in his way.

Lazaridis is a very different role for Baruchel, who is best known for comedies like This Is The End and Knocked Up. The tech mogul goes through the biggest transformation throughout the film and ends up being a very different person at the end.

While BlackBerry doesn’t quite reach the heights of The Social Network, the benchmark of tech films, it is still an entertaining movie about a smartphone many of us used to love.

In cinemas from Friday 6th October.

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