Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) works in the field of high frequency trading, where the speed of the information running across the networks of the world is the most crucial thing, and he believes he can develop technology that will shave a whole millisecond off the average time these go through. What he wants to do is place a cable across the United States from New Jersey to Kansas, perfectly straight, under the ground which will be the most advanced operation of its kind the world has ever seen. His secret weapon? His cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgård), a mathematical genius who Vincent believes will devise exactly what he needs - but first they have to strike out on their own.
The Hummingbird Project was the sort of film where it seemed to have been included on the celebrated Black List of unmade but terrific scripts, and when it was finally made either tinkering with it or the fact it was a better screenplay than it was a completed production doomed it to failure at the box office. While that was not true, neither was the tale it told, despite coming across as if it had been based on real people and events, but nope, right at the end of the credits was that familiar disclaimer about everyone and everything in this being fictitious, therefore it was all the product of writer and director Kim Nguyen's inspiration, though he did make a few caveats about that.
According to him, he had researched the world of high frequency trading, which is a genuine enterprise, and much of what he showed was pretty accurate as to how it operated, which was all very well, but getting audiences engaged in what amounted to a bunch of nerds fighting over an infinitesimal amount of time was a tricky proposition. Although this was produced and was released to theatres, it was really no surprise it did not find an audience, being too niche in its concerns, no matter that those concerns were extremely important to the way global society was run, and would predict a future where commodities may be as simple as one of those units of time themselves.
If this piqued your interest, depending on how much of a stickler for detail you were, then chances are you would appreciate The Hummingbird Project, as it was very well performed in a manner that may well convince you what it was worried about was very important indeed. Eisenberg excelled at these too smart for their own good characters, and here was more or less reproducing his Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network: imagine Zuckerberg if things had gone very badly for him instead of making a billion or more from his ideas. Skarsgård, almost unrecognisable under glasses and a bald look, immersed himself in the tech genius persona to the extent that if you did not know it was him, you may have found yourself wondering who this guy was, seemingly channelling Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, but more lucid.
Anton has a family to support, and his ability has done so up to this stage, but when Vincent demands they pack in their jobs working for corporate shark Salma Hayek, he begins to unravel, especially as he has by no means divined the magic formula for getting rid of that millisecond. But there's more to it that indicated this was no mere technophiles' wish fulfilment yarn, as the point was more that no matter how far you plan, how together you believe in your dreams brought to fruition, whether you have it all honed to perfection in your mind, the way it plays out in reality will always - always - hit snags, and sometimes more than snags, sometimes personal disasters. Without spoiling anything, Vincent may be convinced he is onto a winner, with investors and the engineers on his side, but Nguyen had a habit of throwing in elements to trip him up, and that amplified the tension, which was surprisingly engrossing. Maybe it was because the film as a whole was, without being off the wall weirdo, such an eccentric proposition it engages more than you might expect. Music by Yves Gourmeur, heavy on the nervy pizzicato.