THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT (111 R)
A pair of high-frequency traders go up against their old boss in an effort to make millions in a fiber-optic cable deal.
Director: Kim Nguyen
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Salma Hayek
The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short were big, bold, blackly comic exposés of the dodgy dealings of the financial world. While The Hummingbird Project ostensibly exists in the same milieu, it’s an altogether different animal – a quirky, bitter-sweet fictional take on the extremes that stock market types will go to make a fast buck… or in this case, an astronomically fast million.
Jesse Eisenberg is fast-talking entrepreneur Vincent Zaleski, Alexander Skarsgård his cousin Anton, a computer genius and social misfit. Together they work in high-frequency trading, an area of the financial market where the technology that facilities speed of information is key. And the pair have a dream, of laying down a 1,000-mile fibre optic cable from Kansas to New York – under homes, through mountains, whatever it takes to shave a few milliseconds off the trading time.
While Vincent handles the business end, pulling the strings and finding the cash to dig their tunnel, Anton has to complete the code without which none of it matters. All the while, their old boss (an enjoyably over-the-top Salma Hayek) is after their blood – and a quicker solution of her own.
Written and directed by Canadian Kim Nguyen, this plays like a mix of caper, deadline thriller, satire and a buddy movie involving two chalk and cheese but endearingly bonded individuals. Eisenberg has got the arrogant motormouth role off pat, but he adds poignancy to it here, not least through Vincent’s protective nature towards his balding, lurching, desperately awkward cousin – played with relish and against type by Skarsgård; there’s definitely a touch of Rain Man in the relationship. But, typically of Nguyen’s surprising script, it’s Anton who has the happy family life.
There’s quiet commentary on how business enterprise threatens the environment, and philosophical musing about time itself, as the race to trade in milliseconds is measured against one man’s fight to stay alive long enough to fulfil his dream.
– Demetrios Matheou, The Arts Desk