THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT
TWO AND A HALF STARS Build a high-speed data cable and make millions - what could possibly go wrong?
Jesse Esienberg, Alexander Skarsgård
Inside this curiosity from director Kim Nguyen is a good film, one that would truly question destiny in the face of life-threatening adversity given a chance: there’s an air of Don Quixote about its characters, their personal madness and epic determination. And in part THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT goes some length to achieving those aims. A pity it takes many detours along the way that reduce the impact of its themes, confuse its purpose and all but neutering this erstwhile man from La Mancha.
Vincent (a typically twitchy, motor-mouthed Jesse Eisenberg) and his brother-in-law Anton (a delightfully nerdy Alexander Skarsgård) work for a New York share broker (vampy Salma Hayek). It’s an industry where data is money and the sooner that data arrives, more money gets made. Millions more. Thus the brother’s hatch a plan to build a cable run halfway across America, use code Anton built for Hayek and supercharge its travel time to outsmart their former boss and make themselves a fortune. So far so agreeably hi-tech, ultra-cool and knowingly funny heist movie: OCEANS NBN, if you will. Then Vincent gets cancer and things run off the rails.
How far they run depends on how much you’ve bought into the setup. Anyone with an FTTN connection knows that building super-fast internet isn’t the job of one man, his contractor and a millionaire backer. That unlikelihood aside, it’s the uneasy mix of supercool tech movie and man-faces-destiny that sets audiences adrift - just what sort of story is Nguyen trying to tell? He further complicates his own position as Vincent becomes more and more quixotic while the miscasting of Hayek as a corporate chieftain becomes more obvious.
In the end, any of these strands would have created a good movie. There’s a lot of fun to be had in a Guy Ritchie styled assault on the corporation. Equally, there’s a deeply poignant story in Vincent's final journey. Yet with feet in both these camps, plus a couple of others for good measure, Nguyen robs THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT of definition and purpose; something that the hugely appealing Skarsgård and to a lesser extent, Eisenberg, can't resolve.