Talk about getting rich quick. The schemers in “The Hummingbird Project” have a plan to transmit digital stock exchange information faster than any other company. Like a millisecond or two faster, or the time it takes a hummingbird to do a single wing flap, just enough of a jump on everybody else to earn them millions of dollars.
When we first meet cousins Vincent and Anton (Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård) they work at a high stakes Wall Street trading firm under the ruthless Eva Torres (Salma Hayek). Vincent is the ideas guy; Anton the computer whiz.
Vincent understands that millions of dollars can be made with the right technology, a speedy delivery system that will connect the Kansas Electronic Exchange with the New York Stock Exchange. His outlandish idea is to tunnel from Kansas to New York, through mountains and under rivers and whatever else may be in the way, in a perfectly straight line. High-speed fibre optic cables connecting the two ends should be able to transfer info in 16 milliseconds.
With an investor (Frank Schorpion) on board to soak up the operation’s astronomical cost and an engineer (Michael Mando) to oversee the drilling, everything seems to be on track.
Trouble is, Anton can’t write a program that gets the speed below 17 milliseconds. In this case 16 vs. 17 milliseconds is like comparing the speed of a Lamborghini and a garden snail. Also, their old boss Eva, a billionaire who values loyalty above everything except money, is looking to beat them at their own game.
In the surface this is a quintessential story of American largess, the kind of big thinking that saw the country lead the world in advancement for much of the last century. Dig a little deeper and it becomes a cautionary tale of dialling up the speed of life for the sake of speed and a few dollars.
Guiding us on this philosophical journey are Vincent and Anton. Eisenberg begins the film doing a riff on his Zuckerberg portrayal from “The Social Network” but as the story goes on he drops the sociopathic quest for success to embark on a different, more human journey. (NO SPOILERS HERE) Vincent remains a big thinker but as it becomes clear he is chasing a windmill he gearshifts, allowing his human side to come to the surface.
Eisenberg impresses but it is Skarsgård who steals the show. Balding and paunchy, the heartthrob of “True Blood” has been put aside in favour of an eggheaded character prone to panic attacks and fits of rage. He is the film’s most vivid character and its nice to see Skarsgård push the limits of what he can do on-screen.
“The Hummingbird Project” sets its sights beyond the story of Wall Street intrigue to focus on something much bigger, the effects of global capitalism.