Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Review: The Hummingbird Project

Release date: March 15, 2019
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Salma Hayek

What happens when your edge over the competition is measured in milliseconds?  How much would you give to get that advantage, even for a little bit?  That is the dilemma in the new drama, The Hummingbird Project.  It is a fictional story (though it appears to be based on a real life project without all the drama) that follows two people as they try to build a special purpose fiber line that goes directly from Kansas City to New York in as straight a line as possible.  This would allow them to reduce the latency in a trade by a millisecond, and theoretically have an advantage on all other traders because of this.  

If this premise sounds a bit mundane, then maybe this movie is not for you.  Although the main challenge sounds boring, and the movie can tend to slow to a crawl at times (ironic for a movie that is all about speed and latency), the Hummingbird Project serves up plenty of drama in this high stakes technology / construction caper.  The lengths that the main characters go to in order to realize their dream is interesting to watch, even if the film does tend to drag in places.  And the main characters themselves are well cast, with Jesse Eisenberg playing his trademark confident egomaniac, Skarsgård playing a neurotic genius, and Hayek as the main antagonist.  Skarsgård particularly looks like a completely different person; he went through a complete physical transformation and is almost unrecognizable in this role.

However, the main issue with the Hummingbird Project is that it is just not a very interesting movie.  The filmmakers try to use the film to warn of some modern vices: the obsession with technology, the role of money in modern society, and the harm that both of those do to people, but these lessons are thinly veiled and fairly obvious.  And the vehicle through which these warnings are delivered is still a movie about high stakes financial traders trying to reduce latency.  I wish the story had been based on a real one, so I could have been more invested in the characters; but there is no indication in the film that this is the case.  It works overall, and the movie is worth seeing for the performances and the interesting premise of the film, but you can have a few months of latency before that happens.

Rent it

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