Pros: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard and Salma Hayek in one film; characters explain the nuances of the chase in milliseconds Cons: the film does not allow you to get closer to the main characters; does not live up to the tense atmosphere; “Operation Hummingbird” / The Hummingbird Project is boring in places
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Starring Jesse Eisenberg (Vincent Zaleski), Alexander Skarsgård (Anton Zaleski), Salma Hayek (Eva Torres), Michael Mando (Mark Vega), Sarah Goldberg (Masha), Anna Maguire (Jenny), etc.
Studio Item 7, Belga Productions
Year of release 2018 (in Ukraine 2019)
The film takes place in 2011, at which time the speed of transactions has already become an important variable in market relations. Powerful executive Eve Torres (Salma Hayek) owns a large high-frequency trading company. She knows how to use modern equipment and smart employees who can create algorithms to quickly trade securities.
The most important person in this company is the introverted genius Anton Zaleski (Alexander Skarsgård). One day he succumbs to the persuasion of his cousin Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and becomes part of a big adventure. The brothers intend to dig a direct tunnel from Kansas to the servers of the New York Stock Exchange and get stock quotes in 16 milliseconds, which will give them an advantage over even Eve Torres. To do this, they need to maintain complete secrecy, conclude land deals and, what turns out to be the most difficult thing, control the work process.
Making a film about high-frequency trading is, to put it mildly, not a good idea unless the creators incorporate interesting artistic techniques into it that can explain the nuances of the given topic. I immediately remember the successful directorial presentation of Adam McKay, who was able to explain the actions of hedge fund employees in the film “The Big Short”. But the production of “Operation Hummingbird” was not carried out by McKay, but by Kim Nguyen, so one will have to wait a bit with enthusiasm. Nguyen didn’t have enough enthusiasm and skill to turn the film into a fascinating story.
Kim Nguyen is a Canadian director who directed the drama Rebelle, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. After that, Nguyen made several more films that did not gain worldwide fame, and took up the production of a film affecting financial markets.
Kim approached work on Operation Hummingbird with great enthusiasm. He personally wrote the script and sat himself in the director’s chair, thinking through all the details of the production. Nguyen seemed to take care of the audience, providing them with several episodes in which the main characters, in table conversations, explain the essence of drilling a tunnel and chasing milliseconds. This was not enough to keep the two-hour film glued to the screen without the desire to glance at the watch.
Of course, the film also has a very interesting cast. Eisenberg, Skarsgård and Hayek alone are capable of attracting a large audience who will go to the film for their performances. He will go and feel a little disappointed, because the film sorely lacks a closer look at the main characters. In the drama, they receive rather one-sided functions: the successful owner of the company continues to achieve her goals, the adventurous brother turns things around, and the genius pores over the computer.
The central character is the hero of Jesse Eisenberg, whose personality, despite the efforts of the actor, is lost in the bustle. He does not evoke much sympathy even in dramatic moments and remains a character that the director clumsily uses to rethink the situation in which all participants in the financial race go too far.
Alexander Skarsgård stands out the most in the film. Make-up artists help him become bald and overweight. In the shot, Skarsgård slouches, does not look his interlocutors in the eyes and backs away, feeling uncomfortable interacting with other people. Skarsgard tries in every possible way to show the peculiarity of his character, but in the dry presentation of the film his efforts only work halfway. As for Salma Hayek, she automatically plays a typical boss and doesn’t show anything extraordinary.
There are no noteworthy moments in the techniques used by the director. It oscillates between drama and thriller, while falling short of the suspenseful atmosphere. Somewhere Kim Nguyen sets a fast rhythm, somewhere he forgets about it, and in the end he gets fixated on philosophical reflections about what really matters in this life.
“Operation Hummingbird” is unlikely to become anyone’s favorite film. It stands out from other films due to the specificity of the chosen topic, which no one has ever made a movie about. Perhaps someone will really be interested in this.
The film is interesting in moments, but the director lacks the skill to turn his chosen topic into a coherent good drama.