Sunday, 20 June 2021

Mubi Monday: The Hummingbird Project (2018)

Two cousins, Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and Anton (Alexander Skarsgård), have a dream to pursue in The Hummingbird Project, which uses an unusual central idea to create a fascinating journey for the main journey. It is a film full of familiar moments, but things feel fresh because of the main character motivation.

Basically, the plan is to lay a 1000 mile long line of fibre between one location and the New York Stock Exchange, which could allow someone to get stock market information milliseconds before anyone else. And those milliseconds can allow people to make millions more dollars. Vincent is the one driving this plan, and Anton is busy working through computer code to see how much time he can shave off the data transfer.

Written and directed by Ken Nguyen, someone I am not familiar with (but a quick look over his filmography shows that I should check out the rest of his work), The Hummingbird Project gives a unique perspective on the race to make money from the stock exchange. While focusing on the attempt to create that one, absolutely straight, line - under properties, through mountains, underwater, etc - it manages to emphasise that single-minded pursuit of monetary gain, with no real thought to others affected by it.

Things are helped a lot by the leads. Eisenberg is able to do a lot of his usual stuff, talking quickly and with confidence to get people on his side even as they are still trying to process the information, and he’s a perfect fit. Skarsgård is playing someone much more awkward and quiet, the typical genius who isn’t so good at social interaction, and he does a great job, especially on moments that show him not being quite as vulnerable and lacking in common sense as you might suspect. Salam Hayek gets to add tension, playing their ex-boss who knows something is going on and wants to either be part of it or beat them at their own game, and Michael Mando is superb in a large supporting role, playing the man who can head up the massive job of getting that line stretched out along 1000 miles.

As described by Eisenberg’s character at one point, this is a “David vs Goliath” tale, which means viewers can all root for the underdog, even if the underdog is harder to distinguish from the strong reigning champion this time around. You get strong performances, an intelligent and thoughtful script, and an enjoyably bittersweet third act. Highly recommended.


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