We’re all familiar with the saying “time is money,” but on Wall Street it’s exceptionally true as fortunes can be made or lost in a matter of seconds. In the new tech thriller from writer-director Kim Nguyen, The Hummingbird Project, an unlikely crew of ambitious entrepreneurs plan to create an advantage for themselves on Wall Street by developing a high-speed cable that will give them an edge of milliseconds for stock trading. It’s a film that boasts an exceptional cast and gets off to a blistering start before it settles into a lull that lasts until the credits roll.
Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) and his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) work for the hard-nosed stock trader Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) helping her develop ways to gain an edge in the markets. Vincent and Anton have a plan that will allow them to break free from Eva’s ironclad grip by installing a high-speed fiber optic line from Kansas to New York, giving them stock data milliseconds faster than the competition. In order to achieve this wild goal, Vincent and Anton hire Mark Vega (Michael Mando) to oversee the installation which will span over a thousand miles. Their attempts at secrecy fail and Eva Torres gets wind of their scheme, leading to a race against the clock to gain the slightest edge which could mean millions, if not billions of dollars for the victor.
Jesse Eisenberg plays Vincent as he’s played so many characters in the past – a smarmy, arrogant son of a bitch who always thinks himself the smartest guy in the room. Eisenberg rattles off Nguyen’s dialogue at a rapid pace in a performance that’s captivating albeit very familiar work from the Academy Award nominated actor. The best performance in The Hummingbird Project comes from Alexander Skarsgård as Anton, the polar opposite of Eisenberg’s Vincent. Where Vincent will rattle off sentences in seconds to assert his intellectual dominance, Anton is more measured, a cerebral man unwilling to verbalize his inner-most thought unless he has to. The duo of Eisenberg and Skarsgård makes for an entertaining odd couple, and the presence of Michael Mando as a cool but competent logistics man brings a calming center to the two extreme personalities.
Where The Hummingbird Project falters is failing to make the various complications the characters encounter on their wildly ambitious project create any sense of tension. Hayek’s Eva Torres creates a number of roadblocks in their way, but for all the talk about how she’s relentlessly ruthless her acts of vengeance seem rather tame. Other major complications – medical issues and obstinate land owners – never raise the stakes in the race against time aspects of the story. The first half of the film is vibrant and full of personality and that all begins to fade as the film drags on in the second half.
Despite some fun moments and a great cast giving it their all, The Hummingbird Project never soars, and a major reason for that is the script by Nguyen. The writer-director has a great concept and a strong foundation but the story never builds in a way that is captivating from start to finish. For a movie where milliseconds are infinitely important, The Hummingbird Project doesn’t make the most of its time. Time is money and The Hummingbird Project runs out of liquidity way too soon.
The Hummingbird Project
A well-cast tech thriller, The Hummingbird Project gets off to a great start before sputtering towards the finish line with a lackluster second half that fails to effectively raise the stakes for its characters.