Despite esoteric subject matter, writer-director Kim Nguyen (“War Witch”) has crafted a smartly entertaining and unexpectedly human film with his financial thriller “The Hummingbird Project.” This larger-than-life caper drama, set in 2011 and 2012, feels so based in fact that it’s surprising to learn it’s a work of fiction.
The twisty, propulsive story finds wheeler-dealer Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and anxious code-writer Anton (Alexander Skarsgard), working-class cousins of Russian descent, ditching their Wall Street trading-firm jobs — and wildly greedy boss, Eva (Salma Hayek) — to pull off a secret plan.
Their crazy American dream: construct a 1,000-mile, super-rapid, fiber-optic tunnel to make digital information travel a millisecond faster (equal to the flap of a hummingbird’s wings) between a Kansas electronic exchange and Wall Street’s New Jersey data hub. The result: fractionally speedier stock transactions and, in turn, untold riches for Vincent and Anton.
But a barrage of physical, financial, legal and technological obstacles — not to mention Eva’s maniacal wrath, Vincent’s failing health and Anton’s unraveling mental state — all threaten to bring down the gargantuanly risky project. Can it possibly succeed?
Eisenberg is at his motormouth-New Yorker best; Skarsgard, light-years away from his slickly sexy Perry in “Big Little Lies,” deftly disappears here as a balding, hulking wonk; and Hayek, sporting weird, Cruella de Vil-adjacent hair, is a scary hoot as Eva.
‘The Hummingbird Project’
Rated: R, for language throughout
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Playing: Starts March 15, ArcLight Hollywood; The Landmark, West Los Angeles