The Hummingbird Project

Review by Thomas Hobbs @thobbsjourno

Directed by

Kim Nguyen

Starring

Alexander Skarsgård Jesse Eisenberg Salma Hayek

Anticipation.

A film about two cousins laying cable doesn’t sound particularly exciting.

Enjoyment.

Eisenberg and Skarsgård have enough chemistry to make this muddled story work.

In Retrospect.

A finance story that stretches beyond the usual coke-addled Wall Street traders.

The thrill-a-minute world of fibre-optic cable laying backdrops this uneven tale of humanity versus capitalism.

Named after the millisecond it takes for a hummingbird’s wing to beat one time, The Hummingbird Project is about a plucky pair of cousins attempting to build a fibre optic cable line from Kansas to Wall Street that’s a millisecond faster than the competition and will subsequently give their trading company a crucial, lucrative edge in controlling the flow of the stock market.

Fast-talking Vicent (Jesse Eisenberg, channelling the same twitchy intellect he gave Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network) and his coding genius cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård wearing a bald cap), have plenty of chemistry, but the film fails to give us a true sense of the risks involved and therefore lacks the kind of high stakes tension films about finance need to thrive.

Salma Hayek, playing the cousins’ former boss, brings energy to proceedings as she tries to stop the pair’s dodgy plan in its tracks. A subplot concerning an illness also brings a sense of dramatic urgency. Yet as skilled a director as Kim Nguyen is (his excellent 2012 film War Witch should be seen by everyone), it’s hard to make a movie about people laying cable feel truly exciting.

The observation that people working in finance have a knack of burying their dirt (or, in this case, cables) deep is certainly a fair one, but the film is ultimately too muddled in its approach to succeed as a commentary on late capitalism, switching from crime thriller to buddy flick in a way that will make you dizzy. Vincent goes from being someone out to get all that he can – no matter who he steps on in the process – to a man with a mushy emotional core. The character’s catharsis is neither earned nor believable.

Nguyen deserves credit for creating an intelligent original story about the murky world of finance that will force many to look at Wall Street trading from a fresh angle, but while it just does enough to hold your attention in the moment this is a film you’re likely to forget as soon as the credits roll. The Hummingbird Project could have been great had Nguyen dialled up the deceptive themes of modern capitalism rather than straining to find heart in an industry that doesn’t appear to have one.

Published 12 Jun 2019

Tags: Alexander Skarsgård Jesse Eisenberg Kim Nguyen Salma Hayek

Anticipation.

A film about two cousins laying cable doesn’t sound particularly exciting.

Enjoyment.

Eisenberg and Skarsgård have enough chemistry to make this muddled story work.

In Retrospect.

A finance story that stretches beyond the usual coke-addled Wall Street traders.

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