Film review: ‘The Hummingbird Project’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Exploring America’s destructive uber capitalism has been a frequent movie topic since Wall Street and particularly in the last few years in the wake of the GFC with films like The Big Short.

The Hummingbird Project explores a high-stakes, corporate gamble and even though the film revolves around an infrastructure project it’s a surprisingly compelling, if at times irritating corporate and personal drama.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as, guess what, a pushy, hyper-fidgety motor mouth. He plays Wall Street financial analyst Vincent Zaleski who, along with his genius nerd cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgaard) hit on the idea of putting a gigantic fibre optic cable between Kansas and New Jersey to allow faster share transaction times; something they believe will make them squillions.

The film establishes a George and Lenny Of Mice and Men dynamic between the manic Vincent and the neurotic Anton. Like Lenny and George their best laid plans start to go awry as the cable drilling project strikes engineering nightmares, the corporate nasty investors start to put the heat on Vincent and Anton, their ruthless former boss (Selma Hayek) tries to sabotage the project and Vincent is forced to deal with a devastating personal crisis.

Exactly what point this film is trying to make, at least in terms of it’s stance on corporate America and financial trading, is a little ambiguous. It seems to celebrate maniacal capitalist drive one minute then vaguely critique it the next. Perhaps it’s director Kim Nguyen’s point that this is a grey and grubby world where everyone’s a villain at some point including Vincent who is infuriatingly rude and abrupt with everyone including an Amishman.

Who better to play a maniacally driven, impatient, babbling smart-ass than Jesse Eisenberg. He brings an oddball sweaty intensity to the role that wouldn’t have been out of place in a film like The Big Short. Skarsgaard, isn’t quite as convincing as the apparently autistic savant Anton in a role that at times recalls Christian Bale’s character in The Big Short. The film benefits from strong supporting roles with Michael Mando compelling as the project foreman charged with realising Vincent’s crazy dream. Frank Schorpion is also an appropriately menacing corporate hard-ass as the chief investor. Also, stealing every scene in which she appears is Selma Hayek.

Nguyen directs with consummate style bringing intensity and drama to what is largely a film about people laying a cable. He makes fine use of rural Philadelphia locations and the imposing mountainous landscapes.

By the end of the film its political stance is still a little unclear; there’s some token anti-corporate gestures and in the final act, some personal reflection on the moral cost of greed but the film still seems seduced by the idea of the relentless American entrepreneur.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Kim Nguyen.

Release date: 25th April 2019.

Running time: 111 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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