“The Hummingbird Project”

 

            This is one feels like it could be true, but it isn't. What projects as a morality tale for hip urban millenials fizzles somewhere on an Amish farm in Pennsylvania.

            Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) is one those brilliant, ambitious, young men who's a stock trader.  Savvy is assumed, but speed is essential.  In fact, getting your order in even a millisecond faster can mean the difference between success and failure.  Vincent has a hard-driving, workaholic boss, Eva Torres (Salma Hayek), but he really sees his future alongside his brilliant cousin, Anton Zaleski (Alexander Skarsgard), whose mind dwells in the ethereal realm of codes and algorithms.  Vincent comes up with this grand idea to build a special fiberoptic cable between a computer center in Kansas and the New York Stock Exchange.  Almost exactly a thousand miles.  About four inches across.  All he has to do is secure funding, which he does, from multimillionaire Bryan Taylor (Frank Schorpion).  Then has to find an incredibly talented project engineer who will drop everything he's doing for the next two years to oversee this 1,000 mile project, which he does, in Mark Vega (Michael Mando).  Now all he has to do is talk to hundreds of landowners for permission to drill underneath their land, including around federal reserve land along the Appalachian Trail, including protected marsh land and forest and yes, a solid granite mountain in the range.  What could go wrong?

            What Vincent doesn't count on is betrayal from his own body, in the form of a severe stomach ache, which unfortunately is the precursor to something much more serious.  But this makes him even more desperate to complete the project, despite the many physical obstacles,  and the determined opposition of their former boss, who's convinced they took intellectual property belonging to her firm.  Besides, she just doesn't like people quitting on her.

            At the end, it all seems kind of pointless, because before they're even finished, somebody else has come up with a way of using microwaves in existing communication towers to go even faster.  So now, even if they actually go online, they'll be obsolete before they begin.  All this makes Vincent, the inveterate chain smoker, get all philosophical, and go back to the Amish farmer he strong-armed and apologize for being so persistent.  Anton and Vincent kept talking about striking it rich and getting a cabin in the mountains somewhere remote, where nobody will bother them, and it's just about being with family, and that's painfully close to what the Amish already have.  So, the last scene is Vincent and Anton sitting in an Amish barn, watching the rain, and laughing at themselves for thinking their little time on the planet was anything more than the beat of a hummingbird's wing. 

            Writer and Director Kim Nguyen makes his characters human, but not very likeable. There's no humor, no romance, and not enough charm to captivate the viewer.  It's not awful.  But it won't be a blockbuster, either.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association