A story about how two cousins tried to run 1000 miles of fiber optic cables from Kansas to the Stock Exchange in New Jersey in order to gain a one-millisecond edge in trading and net them millions of dollars – you’re telling me this isn’t adapted?
Synopsis: In this modern epic, Kim Nguyen exposes the ruthless edge of our increasingly digital world. Cousins from New York, Vincent and Anton are players in the high-stakes game of High Frequency Trading, where winning is measured in milliseconds. Their dream? To build a fiber-optic cable straight line between Kansas and New Jersey, making them millions. But nothing is straightforward for this flawed pair. Anton is the brains, Vincent is the hustler, and together they push each other and everyone around them to breaking point on their quixotic adventure. Constantly breathing down their necks is their old boss Eva Torres a powerful, intoxicating and manipulative trader who will stop at nothing to come between them and beat them at their own game. No matter what the cost, Vincent and Anton are determined to cut through America, only to find redemption at the end of their line, not through money, but through family and reconnecting to the land. (Elevation Pictures)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, and Salma Hayek
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Director: Kim Nguyen
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 110mins
The Hummingbird Project is a decent albeit forgettable oddity. Essentially a film about the little guy taking on Wall Street – but literally a film about the ups-and-downs of subcontracting – it features a bizarre, original story that gets lost in what it’s trying to say.
The film stars Eisenberg and a nearly unrecognizable Skarsgard as Vincent and Anton Zaleski, a pair of brother venture capitalists who are sick of working for the giants on Wall Street, so they decide to hatch a plan that will beat their competition in stock trading. The initial reaction that struck me was the reversal of the typecasting between Eisenberg and Skarsgard.
Vincent was an over-confident, ambitious, middle-class entrepreneur who dreams big and wants to escape his current life. Anton was a slouching giant-like coding wizard who seems to dislike every single person in the world minus his children. Together, they are both trying to run a fiber line optic cable to the Stock Exchange in order to best their old workaholic boss, Eva Torres (an over-the-top but stunning Hayek). Both Skarsgard and Eisenberg give subdued performances, however it’s Michael Mando as drilling expert Mark Vega who gives the most humanely-inspired performance of the film.
The Hummingbird Project is a film about milliseconds and inches, it takes the logistics of planning and provides the audience with a nuanced look at the process of undertaking a project of this scope. Even the film’s intertitles utilize stock ticker symbols, adding to the composite feel. However, the stark contrast in tones became cringy at points, not knowing whether to laugh about certain situations or feel remorse for the characters. Nguyen attempts to dissect the ambition of Vincent and the astute awareness of Anton in a personal matter, but the script doesn’t allow the audience to properly feel for his characters. It’s like he built the bridge but blocked all access to it.
Nguyen employs an abundance of slow-motion shots, juxtaposing the blistering speed the fiber optic cables need to operate at. These visual metaphors felt a little too on-the-nose, however they were the most visual compelling scenes in the film. Nguyen examines the fast-paced environment we’re living in, saying we need to slow down and enjoy life before we’re gone. This is hammered home by the David vs. Goliath metaphor that Vincent constantly explains to Mark. Life moves fast, and we need to take time to enjoy what’s most important to us.
Overall, The Hummingbird Project is a film rooted in good intentions – and great chemistry between its cast – but with conflicting messages. It somehow takes on the substantial task of making logistics and subcontracting seem cinematic, and for the most part it succeeds. The film falters in its strange audience-character connections, creating a missing link that it desperately needs. A Hummingbird flaps its wings once in 16 milliseconds – the same amount of time that the fiber optic cables need to run at – and the same amount of time you will stop thinking about this movie after leaving the theatre.