THIS IS the story of Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and their competition to bring electricity to America. Westinghouse working with Alternating Current and Edison working with Direct Current.
Direct current is stronger and safer but alternating current is better for covering long distances. Edison realises America, a very large country, is better suited to alternating current, but rather than admitting he is in the wrong, he sets out to prove how unsafe it is. Their rivalry grows and over time both men betray their morals to win.
The more interesting story here is the story of this film’s making. It was supposed to be a big Oscar contender in 2018 - produced by Harvey Weinstein, directed by up and coming director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me, Earle and the Dying Girl ), and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, who had just come off big success with another Weinstein picture, The Imitation Game.
The film is a victim of the Weinstein reckoning. It debuted in 2017 at the Toronto film festival, after receiving lukewarm reviews it was taken from its director by Weinstein to re-edit. Two weeks after he seized the film, The New Yorker story about his sexual misconduct was released. The film fell into limbo and only last year the director managed to get it back. He had enough money for one day of reshoots and re-edited it on his own. It unfortunately bears the scars of its troubled production.
The acting is generally great. Cumberbatch (Edison ) and Michael Shannon (Westinghouse ) are two actors at the top of their game and they really save the movie. Cumberbatch can play the role of an eccentric genius in his sleep. Westinghouse is the superior role and Shannon is fantastic. He always had a wonderful screen presence and is superb here playing a complicated, complex, man.
The Current War also features the massively underrated and underused Katherine Waterson as Westinghouse’s wife. She is ambitious, but not conniving. She knows her husband is smart and strong, but that he also needs a push. It is great to pull off a performance like this without coming off sneaky and power hungry and without the Lady MacBeth comparisons. Someone please give this woman a great starring role.
Nicholas Hoult plays Nikola Tesla, and is unfortunately the weak link in the casting. David Bowie played Tesla in The Prestige and it was inspired casting.
This story would be more interesting as a lecture or a TedTalk than as a film. Bill Bryson writes fascinatingly about Thomas Edison in his book At Home. It is not entirely without merit, but the AC/DC biopic I want is the one about the Australian rock band, not what I plug my laptop into.