The Hummingbird Project
The Hummingbird Project is a 2018 Canadian-Belgian drama thriller film about high-frequency trading and ultra-low latency direct market access, written and directed by Kim Nguyen produced by Pierre Even at Item 7. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Salma Hayek, and Michael Mando.
|The Hummingbird Project|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kim Nguyen|
|Produced by||Pierre Even|
|Written by||Kim Nguyen|
|Music by||Yves Gourmeur|
It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2018. It was released in the United States on March 15, 2019, by The Orchard and was released on March 22, 2019 in Canada by Elevation Pictures.
The film opens as stockbroker Vincent Zaleski pitches Bryan Taylor on investing in a fiberoptic cable from Kansas electronic exchange to the New York Stock Exchange in order to front run orders in a new high-frequency trading (HFT) operation. Taylor buys into the idea. Meanwhile, Vincent and his cousin Anton Zaleski are still employed by Eva Torres, where Anton programs trading software. Eva is also working on several ideas for HFT. Soon enough, Anton and Vincent quit, making Eva furious. She insists that any code Anton created for her firm belongs to it, and even the thoughts in his head might be proprietary.
Vincent has hired Mark Vega to oversee the building of the fiberoptic cable tunnel. Vincent occasionally helps Mark purchase or lease the rights to land in order to make the cable as straight as possible. Any deviation in the shape of the tunnel will create delays in the trade. Anton is hard at work trying to shave 1 millisecond off the time it takes to front-run orders to NYC. Currently, his software will do it in 17 milliseconds, which is not fast enough to be competitive. It needs to be at least 16 milliseconds to be a viable enterprise for Taylor's firm.
Eva finds an NYU student who has written a paper about microwave pulses to effect HFT. She hires him, and starts the process of building a series of towers to make trades with microwaves. As Vincent struggles with acquiring land, being diagnosed with cancer, and broken drill bits, Eva manages to finish her microwave towers first, and begins front-running the market.
Eva also takes revenge on Anton by having him arrested by the FBI for stock market fraud by using stolen property in the form of the software that he wrote for her company. While in jail, a software bug that Anton had planted in Eva's firm is unleashed, causing a 20 millisecond slowdown in trades, rendering her microwaves useless. She drops the charges against Anton.
As Vincent undergoes chemotherapy, Anton reveals his next idea for HFT involves neutrino messaging, and it could cut the time from Kansas City to NYC down to as little as 9 milliseconds.
In May 2017, it was announced Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård had joined the cast of the film, with Kim Nguyen directing from a screenplay he wrote. Pierre Even served as a producer on the film, while Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Fred Berger served as executive producers, under their Item 7, Automatik and HanWay Films banners, respectively. In September 2017, Salma Hayek joined the cast, followed in October 2017 by Michael Mando.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2018, and was the opening gala at the Vancouver International Film Festival later that month. Shortly after, The Orchard acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. It had a limited release in the United States on March 15, 2019.
The communication systems portrayed in the film do exist. Spread Networks activated their essentially straight fiber-optic cable in 2010 saving approximately 175 miles over the existing route from Chicago to New York, and their journey is depicted in Michael Lewis's book Flash Boys. McKay Brothers and Tradeworx began providing microwave radio service in 2012.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 57%, based on 115 reviews, and an average rating of 6.02/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Smart and well-acted, The Hummingbird Project marks a flawed yet undeniably intriguing addition to writer-director Kim Nguyen's filmography." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Mike McCahill of The Guardian gave the film two stars out of five, stating "We get intriguing ideas, images and locations, and enough closeups of excavation equipment to enrapture plant-hire enthusiasts. With few narrative or thematic hook-ups, though, I guarantee plenty of head scratching in front of this curio". Odie Herderson of RogerEbert.com gave the movie two stars out of four, commenting "Though Nguyen is the only credited writer here, “The Hummingbird Project” feels like one of those movies where nine different people contributed to the proceedings without reading what anybody else wrote. I was ready to check out once we got to the major grab for sympathy (complete with hospital visit) that closes out the film. It's a shame because the acting is quite good here, especially an against-type Skarsgård. His Anton is rather complex and he gets one hell of a celebratory dance sequence. I identified with his little boogie-woogie; finally someone put onscreen what it feels like when your code does what it's supposed to do".
Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times added "“The Hummingbird Project” may be too committed to its popcorn mechanics to double as a truly brainy exposé, but it pays other dividends. Eisenberg adds unexpected shades of humanity to his lizard persona from “The Social Network,” while a bald, unrecognizable Skarsgard pulls off the difficult feat of being sympathetically antisocial as a coder driven batty by his work. As the geological, financial and personal barriers the cousins face grow increasingly absurd, the movie works up a satisfying sweat". Jonathan Dean of GQ noted " But in its own way, the film winds up as Margin Call meets Glengarry Glen Ross meets, yes, The Social Network. And by harking back to the latter, the director has the Eisenberg we fell for. It has his twitch, but with a heart, the idea he is the smartest man in the room, but doesn't want people to know it".
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- "The Hummingbird Project (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (8 May 2017). "Jesse Eisenberg & Alexander Skarsgard Flit To Kim Nguyen's 'The Hummingbird Project' – Cannes". deadline.com. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- Ritman, Alex (September 9, 2017). "Toronto: Salma Hayek Joins 'The Hummingbird Project'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
- N'Duka, Amanda (October 16, 2017). "'Better Call Saul's Michael Mando Joins Jesse Eisenberg In 'The Hummingbird Project'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
- "First Look: Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård in 'The Hummingbird Project' (exclusive)". screendaily.com. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- "Berlin First Look: Salma Hayek in 'The Hummingbird Project' (Exclusive)". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- T'Cha Dunlevy (10 September 2018). "TIFF 2018: Kim Nguyen takes flight with The Hummingbird Project". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
... The Hummingbird Project, which had its world première Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
- Craig Takeuchi (30 September 2018). "Vancouver International Film Festival 2018 kicks off with opening gala red carpet". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
- McNary, Dave (2018-09-06). "Film News Roundup: Jesse Eisenberg-Alexander Skarsgard's 'Hummingbird Project' to Open Vancouver Festival". Variety. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 11, 2018). "Kim Nguyen's 'The Hummingbird Project' Flies To The Orchard – Toronto". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
- Onstad, Eric. Lasers, microwave deployed in high-speed trading arms race. Reuters, May 1, 2013.
- "The Hummingbird Project (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
- "The Hummingbird Project (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
- "The Hummingbird Project Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
- McCahill, Mike (13 June 2019). "The Hummingbird Project review – deeply odd tunnel-digging drama". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- Henderson, Odie (March 15, 2019). "The Hummingbird Project movie review (2019) | Roger Ebert". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- Kenigsberg, Ben (March 14, 2019). "'The Hummingbird Project' Review: They're Running Cable and Chasing Money". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
- Dean, Jonathan. "The Hummingbird Project is Jesse Eisenberg's new whip-smart thriller". GQ. Retrieved November 28, 2019.