Perilous Ambitions

Canadian director Kim Nguyen (Two Lovers and a Bear, Eye On Juliet) returns with The Hummingbird Project, a fictional hi-tech tale that grips from the very beginning. The titular project is the brainchild of two highly motivated and smart individuals, New York-based Russian-Jewish cousins Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and Anton (Alexander Skarsgård). The plan is to build a tunnel for a super-speed fibre optic cable that runs from Kansas to New Jersey to feed vital stock exchange data to their Wall Street clients a vital millisecond faster than their competitors receive it. Or at least that’s the theory.

In their way are a number of obstacles, from the ever-escalating costs to the difficulties of building a pipeline under homes, mountains and Amish-owned occupied farmland to Anton’s failing code. Worse still, their former employer, ruthless boss Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) is on their case, attempting some industrial espionage to find out about this plot and planning her own rival data transfer scheme. And then the highly-driven Vincent has his own health issues to deal with, which threaten not only to derail the project but take him out permanently.

Thematically, Nguyen concentrates on life’s increased fast pace – and how, if we don’t slow down, we’re liable to leaves ourselves open to eventual paralysis. Much of this is channelled through Vincent, who seems destined to kill himself through stress and overwork in a desperate bid to keep the project on track. The obvious comparison is his take on the young Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher’s The Social Network, though the fictional Vincent is less Machiavellian than the Facebook founder.

Skarsgård, meanwhile, is initially unrecognisable as the balding, nerdy Anton (who, seemingly against the odds, has a wife and kids he’s left behind to complete the project). Both work well in tandem, though it’s left to Hayek to provide the fireworks, in a performance that skirts dangerously close to caricature. Nevertheless, anchored by Eisenberg, The Hummingbird Project values its human elements far more than overblown theatrics or creating a Hollywood style techno thriller. Nguyen has crafted an unusual but utterly absorbing film, one that studies the perils of ambition with forensic intelligence.  

The Hummingbird Project opens on 14 June. For more details, visit Vertigo Releasing.

James Mottram

1. Stills from
The Hummingbird Project.