BlackBerry (2023) Movie Ending Explained: During my childhood, mobile phones were considered to be aspirational possessions. They were not necessities as they have become now. While brands like Nokia and Samsung dominated the markets where I lived, touch-screen phones were considered a luxury. BlackBerry was a smartphone that mostly belonged to professionals and was even considered to be ‘cool’ at some point.
So, Matthew Johnson’s new film took me on a detour through those memories. This biographical comedy-drama showcases a wildly fascinating journey through the minds that made BlackBerry a sensation. It tells a rise-and-fall narrative of this generation-defining gadget. Focused on the history of this mobile phone brand, the film had its premiere in competition at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival.
BlackBerry (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis
What is Jay Baruchel starrer BlackBerry (2023) about?
In 1996, Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) arrives at his office in Waterloo to find two men from Research in Motion (RIM) sitting in his cabin for a pitch. He still goes to speak with a colleague to propose running a new division. By that time, RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) tries to get rid of a consistent buzzing sound from a China-manufactured phone on Balsille’s desk.
Once Balsillie returns to his cabin, Lazaridis and his business partner, Douglas Fregin (Matthew Johnson), pitch their new mobile phone called ‘PocketLink.’ Lazaridis is so anxious at the time that he needs to read out the organizations they have worked with in the past! Adding to that embarrassment, Fregin compares their device to The Force from Star Wars like a geek. As a result, the duo ends up giving an embarrassing presentation, which fails to impress the sales-minded businessman.
Through a montage, we see several pop culture references from or before 1996, which shaped a general idea of technical progress. Be it the devices from movies like Blade Runner and Clueless or the people like Bill Gates to Steve Jobs, it shows the things that must have motivated the technological nerds working at RIM to work on PocketLink.
What deal does Balsillie offer to RIM?
Lazaridis and Fregin return to RIM to work with their dedicated team, who are mostly concerned with using their knowledge of technology while having fun. Balsillie arrives at their office to find these men playing around like kids. Once their noise settles down, Balsillie offers a deal. He proposes to be their CEO and sell their product much better than they ever possibly can. He asks for 50% of the company shares.
Do Lazaridis and Fregin accept Balsillie’s deal for RIM?
Lazaridis almost instantly decides to agree because he is self-aware. He knows that he is not a businessman like Balsillie, who can convince someone to buy his product. Fregin stops Lazaridis from taking this deal since he thinks he is too scared to talk back to a confident salesman. He then reveals their $16 Million deal with US Robotics for modems. Once again, Lazaridis accepts the truth – RIM may never get that money. Anyhow, they don’t accept Balsillie’s deal at the time.
Back in his office, Lazaridis calls the US Robotics office to ask for their agreed-upon amount. Their accounting team once again puts Lazaridis on hold. He eventually gets to speak with a US Robotics officer, who says that the modems were defective. Despite being certain that his devices were not faulty, Lazaridis accepts it as a defeat.
Why does Lazaridis decide to accept Balsille’s deal?
Since Lazaridis is fairly certain that this is an attempt to bankrupt them, he decides to get in touch with Balsillie. But Fregin objects to accepting Balsillie’s outrageous demand. He thinks Lazaridis is too naïve and malleable. Eventually, he agrees to bring Balsillie as a co-CEO with 33% of the shares against $125,000.
The two rigorously practice their negotiation skills before the actual call because of Lazaridis’ social anxiety. To their surprise, Balsillie accepts their offer without any negotiation.
Balsillie arrives at RIM parking with his convertible car to create a distinction of his status from the engineers. He enters the office to learn about the US Robotics deal. Lazaridis reveals that he loaned $1.6 Million from the Bank of Montreal to cover the production costs.
So, Balsillie calls the US Robotics office to negotiate. Instead, he learns that they have already started working on a smart mobile phone like RIM. He asks for an early prototype so that he can pitch the product. The investors must know what the product would look like, right?
Why does Balsillie mortgage his house for RIM?
Balsillie goes to the bank to resolve the matter of Lazaridis’s loan. Instead, he realizes that the company is already bankrupt. Since he has no Plan B at the time, he decides to mortgage his house to save the company. Then he returns to the RIM office and rushes the engineers for a prototype.
Lazaridis is firm on his stance that he wants the product to be perfect and not ‘good enough.’ He is tired of the strange buzzing from China-manufactured items and does not want to do the same. Unfortunately, Balsillie does not care about his concern. He orders RIM employees to assemble a piece before his pitch with Bell Atlantic.
Why does Lazaridis forget the prototype in a cab?
Eventually, Balsillie and Lazaridis reach New York for the meeting. During their cab ride, Balsillie says that it is a life-and-death situation for him. He must get this deal approved since most of his assets are used for the company. Perhaps because of that added pressure, Lazaridis forgets the prototype in the cab.
While Lazaridis stays out to sketch it out on a piece of paper, Balsillie approaches a room full of Bell Atlantic employees for the pitch. He instantly switches to his salesman mode and says how the marketing team should focus on selling ‘self-reliance’ than ‘togetherness’ while selling it. Meaning – their mobile phones are not only connecting people from across the globe – they are also making people independent.
When did PocketLink become BlackBerry?
Bell Atlantic’s John Woodman (Saul Rubinek) calls out Balsillie’s naivety for making such outrageous claims. He believes it is because of Balsillie’s non-technical background. Suddenly, Lazaridis walks into the room with the PocketLink prototype. It blows their mind how Lazaridis managed to find a solution to their problems.
Woodman eventually sees the lazily-assembled prototype. He gets surprised to find its unbelievably fast message transmission. But they need a name to sell this revolutionary mobile phone. Balsille and Lazaridis suddenly come up with a new name – BlackBerry. Soon after this deal, their mobile phones become a sensation.
How does RIM avoid Yankowski’s buyout?
Later, in 2003, Lazaridis comes up with another invention – an untrackable, untraceable, unhackable message-delivery system, which costs almost nothing since it uses data instead of a cellular network. While they revel in joy, Palm CEO Carl Yankowski (Cary Elwes) threatens them with a hostile takeover.
Balsillie sees it as a sign that they need to pump their sales numbers up. He starts to sell the BlackBerrys at a rigorous speed without realizing its technical implications. Since it exceeds Verizon Communications’ (known as Bell Atlantic before) network limit, it crashes the network.
To remedy this issue, Balsillie starts hiring engineers from across the globe. He gets in touch with Google’s head of physical engineering – Paul Stannos (Rich Sommer), and hires him with a $10 million salary promise. He also hires Charles Purdy (Michael Ironside) as RIM’s COO to manage the engineers. He pressures them to do the work within the required timelines.
It does not sit well with Fregin, who thinks it goes against the spirit of the company and the casual work environment he likes to have. However, Lazaridis considers the ramifications of their lack of strict discipline and decides to switch to the other side. He even goes on to say that the engineers are there to work on ‘the best mobile phone ever.’ Because of the strict management, the engineers manage to fix the network issues of Verizon networks. It results in their skyrocketed stocks. As a result, RIM avoids Yankowski’s buyout.
How did iPhone’s announcement impact BlackBerry sales?
By 2007, BlackBerry becomes one of the most purchased mobile phones in North America. They hold almost 45% of the total market. RIM still considers pitching another version called BlackBerry Bold. But Lazaridis’ dreams get shattered the moment he sees Steve Jobs’ pitch for an iPhone. He claimed to bring a phone, an iPod, and Internet communication in a single device. Plus, it was going to eliminate the keyboard, and was planning to put it on a touch-screen device.
Lazaridis continues to consider this idea of a ‘revolutionary device’ impossible. Nevertheless, he fears the consequences of Apple’s competition. So, he pressures his engineers to work on a touchscreen for BlackBerry.
Balsillie bails on him during this crucial moment to fulfill his lifelong dream – to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. As a result, Lazaridis is left with Fregin to pitch the BlackBerry Bold. He shows the device with a trackpad but fails to impress the engineers from Verizon. Why would they be excited when Steve Jobs was coming up with something incredibly more influential?
Lazaridis makes an embarrassing attempt to portray himself as the pioneer of bringing a keyboard to a mobile phone. He almost scares Woodman and the others with his intimidating persuasion. He impulsively promises them the ‘Storm’ – a BlackBerry with a touchscreen. Later, he refuses Purdy’s suggestion to outsource the labor for this device from China. His later argument with Fregin results in Fregin quitting his job.
BlackBerry (2023) Movie Ending Explained:
Why did RIM not get a deal with AT&T in 2007?
Balsillie sees the projected sales for iPhone as compared to BlackBerry. He still assumes Lazaridis’ technical genius will solve this problem. But seeing Lazaridis just as apprehensive about their future, Balsillie panics and tries to arrange a meeting with AT&T’s CEO.
Soon after, Balsillie learns that the existing owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins voted against him. They go against him because he bragged about getting this deal before it even actually happened. Balsillie gets enraged and storms out of the room.
He then arrives too late to meet with AT&T’s CEO, who snubs Balsillie. He understands that AT&T’ would not prefer to work with someone who promises data usage (i.e., Apple) than phone minutes.
Why does Lazaridis decide to sell out Balsillie to the SEC?
The SEC decided to raid RIM HQ since the founders did not respond amicably during their phone conversation about their fraud. Turns out, in 2003, they had hired engineers with illegal backdate stock options. Lazridis had no idea that Balsille made him sign such a deal.
Because of an impending threat of legal action, Lazaridis decides to sell out Balsillie to the SEC and become the sole CEO of RIM. A year later, the ‘Storms’ (touch-screen BlackBerry devices) arrived from China. Balsille finds bugs in them and decides to manually repair its issue with a buzzing sound.
So, in the end, Lazaridis’s character arc ends on a fascinating note – where the aspects of minting money superseded his earlier ambitions of innovation – but did not negate his passion and understanding of technology.
Is BlackBerry (2023) based on a true story?
Yes. Matthew Johnson’s BlackBerry is based on a true story. It is a dramatization inspired by real people and real events that took place in Waterloo, Ontario. Matt Johnson and Matthew Miller wrote the screenplay based on the people who turned BlackBerry into a staggering success as a mobile phone brand. The script is adapted from Jaquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s ‘Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry.’
BlackBerry’s closing titles reveal the details of the current lives of the people behind BlackBerry. The touch-screen BlackBerrys, manufactured in China, were mostly inoperable. To cover its financial loss, Verizon sued RIM.
Lazaridis eventually resigned as the company’s CEO in 2012. Balsillie avoided jail despite charges against him for stock manipulation. His texts remained encrypted on BlackBerry servers from Waterloo.
Fregin sold his stock at the 2007 high, which secretly made him one of the richest men in the world. At the height of its success, the BlackBerry phone made up 45% of the cell phone market and is now, unfortunately, at 0%. Now, in the present, BlackBerry has ceased further production of their mobile phones.