Movie review / ‘The Hummingbird Project’ (M)

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Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Alexander Skarsgard play cousins who are trying to make a killing on the New York Stock Exchange in “The Hummingbird Project”.

“The Hummingbird Project” (M) ***

“THE Hummingbird Project” falls into the category of sci-fi adventure. That may surprise moviegoers who expect films thus categorised to tell stories about creatures from other planets invading earth.

Canadian writer/director Kim Nguyen’s film won’t excite ornithologists or other bird watchers, but one of them must have done the work to establish how long it takes for a hummingbird to beat its wings just once.

The scientific evidence varies but there appears to be general agreement that the frequency is around 70 beats per second, which approximates 14 to 15 milliseconds per beat. And that information underlies the film’s plot.

Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) is a brash hustler in the IT world, working for the firm controlled by Eva (Salma Hayek). He’s inventive, forceful, ever looking for the main chance that will make him very rich. She ruthlessly protects her company’s intellectual property principally comprising algorithms to improve her clients’ business practices. Her mantra is success at any cost. Her style is savagely uncompromising.

Vincent’s cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) is a different kettle of fish. Where Vincent is the go-getter, Anton is shy, retiring, afraid of shadows, an unsung genius when it comes to developing algorithms and writing the code to implement them.

The plot of “The Hummingbird Project” is Vinnie’s plan to make big money by closing a deal in the market faster than anybody else. The action may be in Kansas but the market is in New York. Vinnie’s plan is to run a cable between those two centres that will carry market trades faster than any other communications hardware. This generates two problems. The physical one is running a cable in an absolutely straight line between the two cities. The intellectual one is writing software that will beat other traders by sending details of trades along the line in both directions in 16 milliseconds. That way lies big money.

Vinnie’s plan is business at its most aggressive. And it makes for a strong movie. The ups and downs of both of its dramatic threads are not difficult to follow. The principal cast delivers the tensions with vigour. The supporting cast is convincing. The ebb and flow of events does not ask the audience to suspend its disbelief. On the debit side, those with the necessary wit and perception may note occasional minor bloopers that don’t get in the way of telling the story.

At Palace Electric

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"The Hummingbird Project" (M) ***
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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