THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Kim Nguyen

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander, Salma Hayek, Michael Mando, Frank Schorpion.

Alexander Skarsgård and Jesse Eisenberg in The Hummingbird Project (2018)

Two cousins attempt to lay 1400kms of superfast optic fibre cable between Kansas and Wall Street in the hopes of making a fortune. The laying of infrastructure hardly seems like the most exciting premise for a film, and at times The Hummingbird Project is about as exciting as watching a documentary on the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg, from The Social Network, etc) and his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) work as high-frequency traders on the stock market in which every millisecond (the speed of the titular hummingbird flapping its wings) counts and makes a difference between making a profit or a loss on trades.

The pair leave their high-pressure hedge fund firm and set out on their own with ambitious plans to lay a 1400km data link cable between Kansas and New York, hoping to make millions in the process. Vincent is the driven, hustler of the pair who is determined to succeed. He has to overcome a number of ethical hurdles along the way, including environmental concerns while cutting a swathe through forests and tunnelling through an Amish community, while trying to nail down financial support for the ambitious project. But his single-minded drive and obsession prove self-destructive and eventually lead to a breakdown. The more introverted Anton is a genius coder who is obsessed with trying to get an important algorithm right, to the exclusion of just about everything else around him, including his family.

But neither cousin had counted on the interference of their intense and manipulative former boss Eva Torres (Salma Hayek with a white wig), who is prepared to do anything to stop them.

A Canadian-Belgian co-production, The Hummingbird Project is the latest film from Quebecois director Kim Nguyen (War Witch, etc), but this is an uneven film that comes across as episodic in nature. Written by Nguyen, it deals with themes of greed, power, technology, obsession, the dangers of the digital world. But it is also far too long and lacks intensity and urgency. While it deals with the morality of the world of information technology and high finance and provides some food for thought it lacks the bite and energy of films like The Big Short and The Wolf Of Wall Street, and Nguyen lacks the visual panache and frenetic energy of either Adam McKay or Scorsese. The film has been nicely shot by Nicolas Bolduc who creates nice some visual contrasts with his composition of certain scenes.

Eisenberg brings a twitchy energy to his performance as the amoral and fast talking Vincent and he captures his sense of desperation, neurosis and pent up energy. It’s a performance that will remind many of his turn as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. With a receding hairline, obvious paunch, glasses and a suitably slouched posture Skarsgard is barely recognisable as the hunky star of True Blood or films like The Legend Of Tarzan or the recent The Aftermath. He also seems awkward and uncomfortable with his role here. Hayek is over the top as the underwritten villain of the piece here and brings a sultry quality and subtle menace to her performance.

Despite the star presence and solid performances though The Hummingbird Project is an oddity that will have limited audience appeal.

★★

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