Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard, Salma Hayek, Michael Mando, Johan Heldenbergh, Frank Schorpion
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Writer/director Kim Nguyen's The Hummingbird Project is most effective as a vehicle for co-leads Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard to serve up some cinematic flexing amidst a story that sounds like it ought to be mighty boring but is actually quite compelling for the most part.
Eisenberg is Vincent Zaleski, an out-of-the-box player in the high stakes world of High-Frequency Trading where millions are made by the milliseconds and where something as simple as a fiber-optic cable line can be the difference between working 9-to-5 and owning the firm. Alexander Skarsgard, practically unrecognizable here, is Vincent's cousin Anton, essentially a high-functioning Autistic with all the social awkwardness and brilliance you'd expect. Vincent's the huster, Anton's the brains behind it all in charge of writing the necessary code. Vincent's goal is to bury a single fiber-optic cable line between Kansas the the NYSE computers in New Jersey. He gets bankrolled by billionaire businessman Bryan Taylor (Frank Schorpion), who practically salivates every single time Vincent talk but, then again, so would you and I because Eisenberg is once again playing a smooth talking, quick moving hustler with just the right amount of goodness within his aura. Michael Mando's Mark Vega is in charge of the construction and, well, that's no small task considering to pull the project off Vincent will have to get every property owner along the way to agree to it - most jump at the big bucks, though one Amish farmer (Johan Heldenbergh) is one serious holdout.
A bigger problem for Vincent and Anton is Eva (Salma Hayek), Vincent's former boss who not only wants to pull off the same accomplishment but wouldn't mind exacting a little revenge against Vincent's perceived betrayal.
The Hummingbird Project aims high and doesn't always hit its target. It's clear that Nguyen is aiming for something substantial here - he wants The Hummingbird Project to say something universal within its messaging. That's a fine and worthy goal, but the film occasionally gets bogged down in the process. It's a slow-building thriller, not necessarily your usual high-action thriller as much as it is a slowly building thriller meets character study with occasional bits of humor tossed in for good measure.
Eisenberg is good here, though this is a typical Eisenberg performance that he could likely do in his sleep. Skarsgard, portrayed here as a balding guy with a shuffling gait, is a lot more interesting to watch and this is definitely a side of the actor you haven't seen before. Hayek shines in what is truly the film's main villain role, a role she clearly embraces.
The Hummingbird Project is a good film, but it's never as meaningful or as successful as it wants to be. The film's moralizing falls a bit short and lacks conviction, though the occasional lighter tones mostly hit the mark and the film's ensemble cast is uniformly strong across the board. The Hummingbird Project entertains, though one can't help but be a little disappointed with a film trying so much to do more.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic