site banner

Review: Blackberry, The Best Business film ever made... in Canada.

My review of a shockingly great business film that appeared out of nowhere, and how it's themes strike at the core of startup culture and the key questions around technology and business in an incredibly way.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Like you, I discovered this film by accident. And I'm not just Canadian but have an electrical engineering degree. My friends wanted to see The Machine or Guardians of the Galaxy, and not looking forward much to these, I found this as the top rated alternative. I am pretty picky when it comes to movies but I thought this one was very good.

For some reason, there seems to have been a general decline in the telecommunications industry in Canada. It's not just Research In Motion. There was also Nortel. I'm not sure what the reason is, but it seems to be difficult for any industry to thrive in Canada which is

EDIT: forgot to complete the comment.

... which is neither removing natural resources from the ground nor a protected industry like banks, airliners, and telecommunications service providers.

For some reason, there seems to have been a general decline in the telecommunications industry in Canada. It's not just Research In Motion. There was also Nortel. I'm not sure what the reason is, but it seems to be difficult for any industry to thrive in Canada which is[...]

This isn't unique to Canada, there has been a massive global consolidation. There are like three companies now that account for ~75% of the non-operating/service market.

I'm not sure what the reason is

Don't worry, neither does the government- this has been a problem for a long time, from aviation (the Arrow is a meme for a reason) to computer hardware (the number of Canadian-designed GPUs produced exceeds 200 million over their production lifetimes- then AMD bought them).

We simply aren't willing or able to make long-term investments like other countries are (South Korea and its automotive industry comes to mind). Our proximity to the US also works against us in the same way that people are scared off of learning things "because AI": if we're going to just get beat right out of the gate, the national attitude is that we exist to get beat, and American products are still generally cheap enough that we can take advantage of them, why try?

we exist to get beat

Would correct that to "we exist to get bought".

There's the stigma that Canadian companies cannot compete in a mature international industry so if one happens to be an early innovator, it'll take a foreign company buying them up to allow them to reach their proper potential. It also doesn't help that Canada, outside of Quebec, is pretty much the perfect example of an anti-nationalist country. An anti-nationalist country doesn't nurture its companies in the local market until they're able to fend off for themselves on the international market to make us proud. We'll either send them off to get slaughtered too early, or keep them on as a little protected local pet until the international market comes knocking.

Our economy should function like an extension of the US market, but it doesn't. There are serious barriers that prevent our economy from fully integrating with the US. It seems to become much harder to do anything once you cross the border. Part of this is certainly the fault of the US government, but much of it is our fault too.

The "Canadian Identity", according to Canadian poltics, is "Not America". Almost anything the Canadian government does is to differentiate it from the USA. The government erects these serious barriers to prevent Canada from "losing it's identity". In reality it just helps to funnel money (corruption) to Old Money including the aforementioned protected industries.

The reason Canada has no industry is partially due to corruption and regulation and partially due to brain drain. Any ambitious individuals will move (at minimal cost) to the USA for a better chance of starting a successful buisiness or career.

Every time Balsillie got angry in this movie, it was impossible not to see Dennis Reynolds in Howerton's performance. I expected him to start screaming about being a golden god when he was attacking that payphone.

I didn't realize Howerton was Dennis before I looked it up...

Afterwards you see it, but unprompted it was just "Wow this is an entertaining performance."

I haven’t seen the movie but that was my sense just from the trailer. I don’t know if that’s because Howerton just doesn’t have much range, or if it’s because I’ve only seen him as Dennis for 15 years.

I saw this on release day, it was very good.

Enjoyed the essay, will check out the film.

One nitpick: it's Peter Thiel, not Theil.

He claimed the spelling mistakes were deliberate at one point. I'm not sure if he was joking.

I enjoy corporate biopics because I don't read (almost) any long-form non-fiction. That said, there has been - like you say - a huge glut of these over the past decade, and most are overlong, uninteresting and kind of pointless, in that the stories they cover just aren't very interesting and the drama feels fake because the characters have to become caricatures, almost like they're acting in Silicon Valley (the show), in order to create tension or excitement.

The Social Network was elevated by Sorkin's writing and Eisenberg's acting, but it was also good because the story itself was great, lots of stuff happened, there was drama, and the personal journeys of the characters were compelling reflected in the 'business' storyline. It also had one of the best taglines in the history of cinema.

Thanks for the review, I'm excited to see the movie. Unfortunately it's not available to stream and there seems to be no UK release date, so I'll be waiting.