Gasparilla International Film Festival: The Hummingbird Project (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The Hummingbird Project (2018) was the opening night movie at the 2019 Gasparilla International Film Festival, and – despite some of the most inconsiderate film viewers I’ve encountered – it was quite an enjoyable (albeit slightly flawed) film. The cast really makes the movie. It is centered around Jessee Eisenberg, but Alexander Skarsgård, Selma Hayek, and Michael Mando give outstanding supporting performances. The chemistry between these actors really clicks, and the film manages to bring several very funny moments to the table while crafting a somewhat compelling story that shouldn’t really be that compelling at all.

The Hummingbird Project is a great showcase for the talent

Vincent Zaleski (Eisenberg) has convinced his cousin Anton (Skarsgård) to quit his job at a competitive trading company. Anton is a very capable IT guy, and he has an idea on how to reduce the latency from a trade request to the bids in order to get in front of the competition. Vincent and Anton plan on running a fiber-optic cable across the country in a way never done before, with hopes of being able to beat their old boss, Eva Torres (Hayek), who won’t take a loss of this nature lightly.

I love when Eisenberg plays a confident (or more accurately, arrogant) character. He’s so good at delivering lines of dialogue that are both funny yet biting. In many ways, Vincent reminds me of Mark Zuckerberg – or at least Eisenberg’s portrayal of him in The Social Network (2010). Vincent is cocky, and knows that he is working a system and riding on his cousin Anton, which is exactly what Eva and her company were doing. Vincent has a charm and a wit that Anton doesn’t exhibit, so he is great at making the sales and getting the permission needed to build the wire they want.

Skarsgård gives such an amazing and unrecognizable performance. Most of the film, his character is isolated while trying to solve a coding issue to reduce the latency enough for this plan to work. The few interactions he gets – whether it be a phone call or talking to a waitress – are usually awkward and comical, to a degree. However, in a few of the moments of triumph or defeat, he truly gets to do some great work that makes the movie very enjoyable. I laughed, as did the packed Tampa Theater, at many of these spectacular scenes, particularly a celebratory dance that’s followed by an amazing foot chase.

Mando plays Mark Vega, the prime contractor they hire to help run all of the crews working to drill the holes for the wire. Initially, it seems this character will operate in the background, but he becomes a prominent member of the film and the team. The chemistry between Mando and Eisenberg clicks effectively, and the friendship that forms within the working relationship is believable in a realistic way. Mando’s influence on the film is powerful, and I hope to see him in more projects with even more screentime.

Hayek is simply great in this film. She’s clearly having fun being an antagonistic, yet empathetic, figure:  a woman in power of a financial institution who isn’t just going to let her spot at the top fall because of the ambitions and subsequent betrayal by her former employees. This film has a lot of fun and allows the characters to be people, which makes it impossible to dislike any of them no matter their tactics.

Writer and director Kim Nguyen have crafted a compelling story that doesn’t completely come together by the film’s end, but for the most part, it works. One stylistic element that really worked for me both visually and thematically was the use of slow motion. Many objects, like tennis balls or raindrops, are almost suspended in air as a result of the extreme slow motion. It looks very cool, but really hits home the idea of the speed that their new fiber-optic cable will be operating on. This becomes an important aspect to a number of the messages the film is conveying – but to reveal those may spoil plot elements, so I’ll refrain.

Final thoughts…

The Hummingbird Project is definitely worth checking out once it is available to see. If you’re a fan of any of the cast members, it is most certainly worthy of their talents, and they give it they’re all. I do believe this is my favorite Skarsgård performance. The Hummingbird Project earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating with a slight lean towards Decent Watch.

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