THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT – Review – We Are Movie Geeks



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Here’s an interesting movie hybrid, a flick that’s both a wall street drama, a family character study, and a chase thriller. Really, that’s because in the financial world, speed is everything (or perhaps the only thing). It’s the old adage, “he who hestiates is lost”, though in split-second trades and deals, the hestitant can lose a fortune. Hold up, a split-second is too long, it’s now down to a millisecond, or (as one character calls it) one flap of that teeny bird’s wing. That quest to be a jump ahead of your competitors forms the family scheme known as THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT.

After a brief prologue detailing the ins and outs of “high frequency trading” (older info for fans of the WALL STREET flicks), we’re in 2011 as “idea man” Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) is meeting (and selling) with the silver-haired veteran exec that will bankroll his plan. Soon after, Vincent is back at the financial consulting firm where he toils away, a cog in a big wheel, with his tech-savvy socially awkward cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgard). At lunch the two of them meet with engineer Mark Vega (Michael Mando) concerning the logistics of “the plan”. Basically they want to run an underground fiber-optic wire right from the Kansas City nationwide financial data processing center to their offices in the NYC area (bypassing the satellites and towers). If they can get the landowners to sign exclusive NDA deals to run the cables (a foot or so wide) under their property, then it can be done. The cousins head back to work and promptly resign, enraging the company’s CEO, the ruthless Eva Torres (Salma Hayek), who vows retribution if Anton uses any of the proprietary codes he created for her. Vincent tells Anton not to worry and soon they are on the road, though Anton is working out of a Pennslyvania hotel near the line in order to trim a millisecond of the data speed. But the idea runs into some snags as the line must pass through a mountain inside a national park and the hard-charging, chain-smoking Vincent deals (or chooses not to deal) with a serious health issue. Even worse, the sensitive Anton is rattled by the threats of prison tossed at him (like a dagger) by the vengeful Eva. And she’s got a high-speed scheme of her own. Can she beat the boys to the punch (and the big, big bucks)?

With this role, Eisenberg puts a harder edge on his fast-talking, intellectual screen persona. His Vincent has a touch of the tech savant from THE SOCIAL NETWORK, warped into a desperate, sweaty hustler rattling off any bit of deception in order to meet his needs. That frustration intensifies as his body begins to shut down, as Eisenberg gives us a man barely able to function, only awake through sheer force of will (and frustration and greed). Vincent’s a complex, complicated character who only shows affection to his family particularly his partner in chaos, Anton who Skarsgard plays with a hyper-focused intensity and, with his shaved head and glasses, is a stark contrast to his leading man roles (hey, he was Tarzan remember). Anton is hunched-over, mentally distracted (here’s that word again) savant with little patience for those lacking his tech skills. With his quirks, Anton could be “on the spectrum”, as he only emotionally connects with his wife and daughters (a real doting dad) and his cousin. Together on the road the two do have a bit of the RAIN MAN vibe, especially when they board a plane (of course Anton has issues). They find strength in that familial bond in battling the story’s villain (or villainess), former boss Eva played with great energy by the formidable Hayek. With her jet black and platinum silver streaked hair and big purple-tinted goggle glasses, Eva is a modern siren/sorcerous shifting from cool seductress to fiery vengeful demon (a touch of Medusa perhaps) who targets Anton for her full fury and manipulations (she can’t pierce Vincent’s armor). Hayek brings a real sense of urgency and a touch of sexy fun to this big “race”, while Mando as “hired muscle” Mark brings a bit of the everyman and working class compassion to the big “idea” (it takes brains, but somebody’s gotta’ get their hands dirty to run the pipeline).

Writer/director Kim Nguyen gives us a great insider’s view of the high stakes business world while making all the machinations accessible to the “non-economically enabled” via the family dynamics and the competitive element (if they were reporters Eva and the duo would be racing to be the first to print the “scoop”). There’s the typical study of greed out of control, turning “good guys” into callous jerks (Vincent’s negotiations with landowners, especially an Amish elder, take a nasty threatening turn), but Nguyen pops in elements of a ‘caper’ thriller with several twists and unexpected turns. And with his excellent cast, the conflict has real power as do the smaller intimate scenes of the intense bond between the cousins (who seem more like brothers) as Vincent gently prods Anton into solving the time element (much as in “Of Mice and Men”, Anton is assured of a remote country home, rather than Lenny’s idyllic rabbit ranch). All of the conflicts and competition make THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT a unique high tech, big bucks unique “chase” flick.

3.5 Out of 5

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.