American dream gone awry
Much like J.C. Chandor’s impressive 2011 feature debut Margin Call, everything that occurs in writer/director/executive producer Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (three out of four stars) is wholly plausible and — given the perennially cutthroat corporate climate – highly probable. It didn’t take place, but it could have. Suspension of disbelief is not required. It feels real.
The film focuses on two wildly disparate yet inexorably linked personalities: Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) and his cousin, Anton (Alexander Skarsgard). They have a dream, to construct an underground tunnel from Kansas to New York that will allow them to transmit market information more quickly than the competition. It will revolutionize trading, and – they hope – make them a fortune.
There are, however, complications, not the least of which is Anton’s former boss, Eva Torres (Salma Hayek), who is so incensed by his defection that she’ll do anything – anything – to sabotage them. Another is Anton, the brilliant but erratic computer genius whose mounting neuroses threaten not only to derail the project, but also his sanity. Then there is Vincent’s health, which takes a sudden and unexpected turn for the worst.
What initially seems a flip, hip caper comedy – with Eisenberg in his element as fast-talking, self-possessed huckster – takes a nimble turn into a more bittersweet territory, as Vincent and Anton’s ambitions slowly turn to dread, their American dream threatened from within and without.
There’s much to enjoy in The Hummingbird Project, particularly the performances. Skarsgard, who is almost unrecognizable, is so completely immersed in Anton’s insecurities that the character dominates the proceedings, which occasionally shifts the balance of the narrative in his favor, sometimes at the expense of the story. Yet let’s not discount Eisenberg (first-rate), Hayek (in delightful “dragon lady” mode), sturdy Michael Mando as Vincent and Alex’s stalwart assistant, and Johan Heldenbergh in a funny yet dignified role as an Amish farmer who has no interest in trading, tunnels, or however much money is waved in his direction so that Vincent and Alex can build on his property.
– The Hummingbird Project opens Friday
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.