Thursday, March 21, 2019

Racing the clock to build a data pipeline

The excitement of obsessive ambition leads us to a familiar place in The Hummingbird Project.

The Hummingbird Project takes aim at obsessive ambition, in this case, the drive to gain the upper hand when it comes to buying and selling stocks by using high-speed data transmission to win milliseconds of advantage over the competition. For a while, the movie barrels along with dizzying urgency.

In addition, the movie gives Alexander Skarsgard (familiar from HBO's True Blood and Big Little Lies) an opportunity to shave his head to play a bald computer geek who can code his way out of just about any problem. Skarsgard’s Anton isn’t much when it comes to socializing, though. His stooped slouch of a walk makes you wonder whether, all things considered, he wouldn't be happier if he could simply disappear.

He can't. Skarsgard's Anton Zaleski must find a way to shave minuscule amounts of time off high-speed fiber optic transmission from Kansas to New York. The idea originated with Anton's cousin Vincent, played by Jesse Eisenberg in another avid performance.

You don't need an advanced degree to know that the movie is going to find ways to critique the driven world of high finance, but along the way, you'll find nice work from Salma Hayek, her hair turned stylishly gray, and Michael Mando, familiar from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. Mando portrays the manager of the construction firm charged with building the data-carrying pipeline.

Although we've seen it before (principally in The Social Network), it's fun watching Eisenberg play a wheeling, dealing character.

But acting and character development isn't the problem here; the excitement generated by Vincent's scurrying personality eventually wears itself out, and we know from the start that the movie wants us to understand that there's more to life than making money.

Director Kim Nguyen, who also wrote the screenplay, finds himself a little behind the curve when it comes to tackling hollow, soul-destroying ambition, a theme that's spelled out so clearly that one of Vincent's conflicts pits him against an Amish elder (Johan Heldenbergh) who doesn't want to sell drilling rights on his land because he doesn't give a damn about speed.

The scene emphasizes a point that doesn't need underining: Speed can kill.

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