The market downturn made talking about Wall Street, in films, required more...finesse with the storylines. It was no longer good enough to build the action around the frantic pace of the trading room floor and ignore the backroom machinations that make it all happen. I, for one, appreciated the shift because the trading room floor is never where the real story lives. Once the stock market caught up with the digital world, a whole new landscape opened up for filmmakers. Enter, The Humming Bird Project.
Cousins Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) work for a High-Frequency Trading firm. For those of us who still waiting on bi-weekly paychecks, this means the pair are players in high stakes trading on the stock market. High-frequency trading isn’t just beating on the price of stocks and making a profit from getting it right. It’s getting that trade to the stock exchange the fastest. These traders leverage digital means to submit their trade in milliseconds. One second is the difference between making millions and hundreds of millions of dollars, a day.
Vincent and Anton intend to let their hustle and know-how to set them up for life. How? By building a fiber-optic line between Kansas and New Jersey so their trades register faster than anyone else’s in the game. They just have to do it without their soon-to-be former boss and ruthless trader Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) or anyone else finding out before their ready to go public.
Sounds simple enough, right?
The Hummingbird Project poses the question: what is someone willing to risk it all for and, is it ever really worth it. This quick moving narrative plays out on many levels both to the films success and its detriment. The main story although straightforward in the telling deftly introduces a version of the stock exchange hardly featured. Salma Hayek’s portrayal of a ruthless trader intent on being the best by controlling the best minds makes for a disturbing yet telling story arc. American is a country intent on bulldozing its way to greatness by putting profits over people and commerce over community; The Humming Bird Project narrows in on some of the fissures in the matrix.
Writer/Director Kim Nguyen (War Witch) put together a unique take on a financial thriller with a tale where the suspense and drama both revolve around the human element. The story’s straightforward with just enough quirks – hat tip to Alexander Skarsgard – and humor to keep it from bogging down. The twists and turns are subtle enough to hold an audience not really that interested in high finance and fast-paced enough for viewers interested in punchy dialogue and quickly evolving drama. Nguyen didn’t fully capitalize on the skills at his disposal with this A-list cast but the overall performances from this ensemble made for an interesting tale. I would’ve like a more intensity at all levels but the softer moments do allow for micro-development of both characters and sub-plots.
This one had its highs and lows ultimately fell short of the talent on board but I enjoyed the ride.