PLOT: Two cousins (Alexander Skarsgård & Jesse Eisenberg) hatch upon a scheme to undercut their old boss (Salma Hayek) by building a high-frequency, fiber optic cable from Kansas City to New York, which would grant their clients milliseconds of extra time in Wall Street trading- a deal potentially worth billions of dollars.
REVIEW: Kim Nguyen’s THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT shines a light on a world I must admit I know next to nothing about – high-frequency trading. The concept of a fiber optic load allowing the client a millisecond or two of lead time on their competition makes sense to me in its concept, even if I can barely conceive of how a millisecond could even be measured.
However, it’s a real thing, and one could imagine how cutthroat it could be with billions on the line. That brings us to THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT, a film that tackles how the industry can be blown up almost overnight, with new technologies constantly on the horizon. Today its fiber optic cable, but what happens when you don’t need the cable? That gives the scheme Skarsgard and Eisenberg come up with something of a ticking clock, as they know that even if the straight cable is built, there’s no way it’ll be cutting edge for long. They want to get in and get out.
Overall, it’s a pretty interesting idea for a movie and writer-director Nguyen has a way of explaining the stakes without bombarding us with the technical minutia. We get that Skarsgard’s awkward Anton has to shave time off the data transfer rate and we get that Eisenberg has to negotiate land rights to allow the cable to be buried. The specifics aren’t important.
However, THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT seems more interested in the people at the center of the story than the technology, enabling it to work as more than just a snapshot of technology that will likely be pretty outdated somewhere down the line. Eisenberg and Skarsgard are a winning duo, with the latter trying to stretch by adopting a bald pate – which I found distracting (as a bald guy myself I always know when this is faked) as it’s just a gimmick to hide an actor’s attractiveness. He didn’t need to use such an obvious trick as he’s able to convey Anton’s awkward side in other ways (his wife, played by “Barry’s” Sarah Goldberg, is portrayed at near saintly with her bottomless reserves of patience).
By contrast, Eisenberg is the wheeler-dealer cousin, the people person who has to convince folks to let him dig on their land – not so easy when you’re dealing with folks like the Amish, to who the term “high-frequency data” doesn’t seem like a good thing. He’s good in the part, although I gotta say; co-star Michael Mando (Nacho from “Better Call Saul”) nearly walks away with the movie as his capable foreman. It’s a great part and a nice change for him that suggests a really good range. Salma Hayek also gets a juicy part as the vindictive boss who’s not about to let herself be usurped without a fight. It feels like a logical follow-up to her powerful performance in BEATRIZ AT DINNER.
While the technical subject matter may put some people off, along with the somewhat oddball title, THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is an interesting, well-acted little film. It’s well worth checking out and certainly shines a lite on a unique, little-discussed aspect of telecommunications.