The Hummingbird Project

First Hit: Jessie Eisenberg brings intensity to his roles, and in this film it adds to an already time driven story about speed.

Vincent Zaleski (Eisenberg) is a Wall Street trader. He’s focused on high frequency trading. Response times of the systems he works on is paramount.

He works for Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) who is relentless and ruthless. Her opening scenes makes this point. It is in these scenes, we get to also know Vincent’s brother Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) who is a coding and engineering genius.

Anton and two others work for Eva in the capacity of trying to reduce the response times of getting and sending trading quotes. Each of the three have separate projects including microwave transmissions which seems to have in insurmountable problem.

Vincent and Anton are convinced that if they can run optic fiber cable from the centralized data center in Kansas to their office in New York, then will be able to realize an advantage by getting quotes milliseconds before other traders and thereby getting an advantage. The goal is to get the data 1 millisecond faster than anyone else. That millisecond is equal to one flap of a hummingbird’s wing (hence the title).

The cost of drilling a completely straight hole ten feet underground from Kansas to New York is expensive, but with the right investor, one who sees the advantage, they could make hundreds of millions of dollars each year for a couple of years when their technology advantage would become obsolete.

Convinced of the possibilities, Vincent finds Bryan Taylor (Frank Schorpion) who’s known to make risky investments. After persuading Taylor to finance the project, Vincent and Anton quit working for Eva. In a ranting scene when they tell her, she vows to retaliate.

To help them drill this straight, twelve-hundred-mile tube ten feet underground, they hire Mark Vega (Michael Mando) who is a genius in his own right. His stories about the places he’s drilled are fascinating.

The rest of the film is about the trials and tribulations of this project, Vincent’s discovery that he’s very ill, Anton’s amazing focus, and Anton’s wife’s patience.

The over-the-top scenes of Eva threatening the two men, especially Anton were engaging to watch. When they hire Ophelia Troller (Ayisha Issa) to figure out how to drill through government land in the Appalachian Mountains, it gets even more complex and interesting.

However, one of my favorite scenes is when Anton is drilling a hole in a file cabinet and his amazingly patient wife comes in and tells him to quiet down. I loved this interaction and the whole scene.

Ultimately, there has to be a race, and Eva hires someone who thinks he can figure out the microwave solution that will be faster and less expensive. The race is on.

Eisenberg was intensely perfect for this role. His fast-talking drive and focus fit this role. His action and reaction to hearing about his cancer was thoughtful. Skarsgard was outstanding as Vincent’s savant like programmer engineer brother. I thought he nailed the role. Hayek was sublimely vicious. She was strong in portraying the win at all costs attitude of the leader of a high frequency trading company. Schorpion was strong as the risky investor. Issa was amazing as the woman who could get them through the mountain. Mando was outstanding as the project manager for the whole project. He was extremely effective in making me believe he knew what he was doing. Kim Nguyen wrote and directed this film. I thought the script was strong and the acting excellent. However, somewhere along the way it became a little tedious and maybe that is because of the intense energy brought by the roles and actors was so overbearing.

Overall: This was a good film and might have been more engaging if they’d taken the time to demonstrate more clearly the advantage of a 1 millisecond advantage in high frequency trading.