★★★½ - STUFF
He was inspired by the 2011 stockmarket crash.
Watching the financial carnage taking place around him on Wall Street, Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) realised speed was the key to minimising loss.
With the help of his more technologically-minded cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgard), the former New York plumber's assistant dreamed of creating a fibre-optic network that would give him and anyone willing to pay him access to vital information all-important milliseconds ahead of their rivals.
His 1000-mile cable would stretch from the Kansas Electronic Exchange to the New York Stock Exchange servers in New Jersey.
But while Vincent attempts to persuade investors to help finance his ambitious project, he's battling three issues. Getting consent from landowners, finding a way to take the line through the forests, swamps and Appalachian mountains and solving the problem of making the connection as fast as he is promising.
Despite Anton's best efforts, he's still some way off achieving 16 milliseconds, the same amount of time it takes for a hummingbird to beat its wings once. Not helping the situation is the fact that their old boss Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) has her own plans for an even faster time – and is less-than-impressed at their defection.
Beneath all the financial and technological jargon, French-Canadian writer-director Kim Nguyen (War Witch, Anna Paquin detective drama Bellevue) has crafted a taut, terrific little cautionary tale.
Those who enjoyed dramas like Margin Call and 99 Homes will soak up the emphasis on character over action and revel in our protagonists' desperate struggle to keep their dream afloat. As Vincent belatedly says, "it's not the destination that's important, its the people we meet and the lessons we learn".
Reminiscent of his critically-acclaimed turn in The Social Network, Eisenberg essays another complicated character, one you'll be conflicted about what fate you'd like to see in store for him. Likewise, Skarsgard (The Aftermath, Big Little Lies) is a revelation (and almost completely unrecognisable) as the mathematical mind, if not the brains, of the operation.
Although it perhaps eventually over-eggs the contrivances and misfortunes, there's a lot to like about this understated Project.
- JAMES CROOT, STUFF