The Hummingbird Project


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

The Hummingbird Project
"This is a story of building a thing against impossible odds."

So it's a film about a hole?

That's right?

Copy picture

A great big hole, to the centre of the Earth?


A hole in space? In time?

Not at all. It's just an ordinary everyday hole, not much more than 4” wide, drilled from Kansas City to New York.

Uh huh. And people are going to watch a film about a hole.

Absolutely. Because this is an important hole. People will spend millions on it. They will sabotage the companies building it. They will retaliate because....


Because the first person to drill this hole is going to make billions. It's all about high frequency trading and 'front-running' - you can read about it here. It's a money market thing. But imagine your potential customer has to send a messenger to the next town every time you want to buy stock. And you, well, you have to send your own messenger to greet theirs if you want to do business with them.

And because your messengers travel at the same speed, your messenger arrives at the same time as messengers from every one of your competitors.


But now imagine that your messenger gets there first. They buy all the available stock for less than your customer is prepared to pay. And minutes later your customer arrives and buys the stock from you.

And now imagine that whole process taking no more than a few milliseconds. Imagine the difference between being able to communicate between trading centres in 16 milliseconds, rather than 17, being worth hundreds of millions of dollars to your business.

And if you can imagine that, you've just understood the essence of The Hummingbird Project, one of those quietly obscure films about a thing that maybe never even occurred to you as important. But in the last decade it really was. Companies paid millions for the rights to drill dead straight lines from centre to centre, and lay fibre optical cables down the middle of them. Fortunes were made and lost as one or the other gained a millisecond advantage over the other and...

This is the story of how an odd couple of high frequency traders, Vincent and James Saleski (Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård ) abandon ship, leaving the high-tech fibre optic company where they are employed by Ice Maiden and bitch supreme Eva Torres (Salma Hayak) and strike out on their own.

What follows is a two-track story. On the one hand, this is a story of building a thing against impossible odds. Irrepressible optimist Vincent promises his investors the world in 16 millisecs. Nerdier cousin James looks forever one paper bag away from a panic attack as he declares “it cannot be done,” before Vincent explains he didn't really mean that and hustles him out of the meeting.

Meanwhile, over on track two, Eva is fuming at the disloyalty of her former henchguys...but mostly she is fuming at the possibility of losing her business advantage. So she is straight into the fray, pushing her own hi-tech solution. While doing whatever she can to sabotage the lads' hole-drilling efforts.

No: it doesn't sound like a promising base for a movie. But in the end, all the ingredients are here. The impossible dream. The implacable nemesis. Insights into family and motivation and large questions about why: why risk your life and livelihood in pursuit of such a thing? Because, as we learn early on, Vincent is not in the best of health and yet, when it comes down to it, he places winning in business over his own survival.

This film will not win awards: but it is a good solid drama, with character, and heart. Definitely worth a watch!

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2019
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The Hummingbird Project packshot
A pair of cousins embark on scheme to make millions in High Frequency Trading.

Director: Kim Nguyen

Writer: Kim Nguyen

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Salma Hayek, Michael Mando, Johan Heldenbergh, Ayisha Issa, Mark Slacke, Sarah Goldberg, Frank Schorpion, Kwasi Songui, Conrad Pla, Julian Bailey, Jessica Greco, Robert Reynolds, Wyatt Bowen

Year: 2018

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: Canada, Belgium

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