After a long road, The Current War: Director’s Cut–about the industrial age rivalry–is finally getting a theatrical release this weekend.
This is a film that takes us back to the past in order to show the fight for the future. While we probably don’t think about it often, electricity isn’t something that was always taken for granted. Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is battling against George Westinghouse (Michael Shannnon). When Edison is on the verge of lighting up Manhattan with electricity, Westinghouse has a secret weapon in the form of business partner Nikolai Tesla (Nicholas Hoult). Edison’s plan called for direct current (DC) technology while Westinghouse and Tesla turned to alternating current (AC). The rest as they say is history.
When Edison meets with President Chester Arthur in Washington, he shows off the Edison Phonograph. The president asks Edison to build military weapons but Edison steadfastly refuses to do so. A man with morals! Edison tells the president that he’ll never build anything that will take a human life. It’s kind of ironic now when you think about it. To be fair, nobody probably expected that death by execution would be such a popular idea in prisons.
Edison travels to New York where he sets up shop at Edison Electric. Edison’s personal secretary, Samuel Insull, eventually comes to serve as the liaison between Edison and Westinghouse. What could have been a nice friendship turns into something quite the opposite. Tesla starts working for Edison but the two don’t really see eye to eye on the future of electricity.
Things come to ahead during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Edison and Westinghouse. Two titans. What could possibly go wrong this time?
Make no mistake that this story is worthy of a period epic. After all, it’s a film that focuses on the rivalry between two industry titans. Cumberbatch and Shannon are able to elevate the material in a way that only they can do so. It’s fascinating to watch their approaches to two legends. IF a sequel is to ever be made, it would certainly have to be about the start of the motion picture industry. After all, Edison would go onto patent the Kinetograph and make images move on screen.
This is a film that initially held a premiere over two years ago in Toronto. Unfortunately, it got held up because of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall. There were a lot of things that needed to happen for this film to finally see the light of day. The end result is a film that the cast and crew should be proud of. In another universe, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon wouldn’t have needed to fight tooth and nails for his vision to be seen. Yet here we are!
I am not in a position to compare this film to the previous version that was rushed to Toronto. This is mostly because my first TIFF didn’t happen until a year following the premiere. I have no doubt that the previous version landed very poorly. This version is also six minutes shorter than the initial premiere two years ago.
It’s easy to think of Thomas Edison as the inventor of the light bulb. At the same time, there is more to the man than just his inventions. What The Current War: Director’s Cut shows audiences is how far Edison is willing to go to achieve his goals.
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
SCREENWRITER: Michael Mitnick
CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, and Nicholas Hoult