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Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, THE CURRENT WAR is the epic story of the cutthroat competition between the greatest inventors of the industrial age over whose electrical system would power the new century. Backed by J.P. Morgan, Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla, has seen fatal flaws in Edison's direct current design. Igniting a war of currents, Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and written by playwright Michael Mitnick (Sex Lives of our Parents), THE CURRENT WAR also stars Katherine Waterston, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Matthew Macfadyen, and Tuppence Middleton.
Long delayed, and with a stellar cast, "The Current War" might have been considered an Oscar prospect during production, but following the two year Weinstein-inspired deferment was it worth it? Probably not, but I did quite enjoy the film, despite its flaws.
George Westeringhouse (Michael Shannon) has made his fortune supplying gas to cities but can see that Electricity is the future. He seeks to partner with Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) but Edison's ambition is for his Direct Current system to conquer America. Slighted but determined, Westeringhouse spots an opportunity to utilise the cheaper, but slightly more dangerous Alternating Current system and establishes himself as a competitor to Edison. The two compete for contracts from towns and cities but it's the World's Fair, in Chicago that will determine whose system becomes the standard.
Plenty of my fellow reviews have commented on the historical inaccuracy compared to the real story, though I can appreciate that, I'm going to focus more on the film itself. Though I can see the flaws in the film I did enjoy it. The performances are good, Shannon is more subtle than I've ever known him be before, subduing his natural menace. Cumberbatch is on more familiar ground, flawed genius. Katherine Waterstone, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton and Nicholas Hoult are also good. The world building and historical recreation are nicely done.
The trouble is, the story is just a little slight to justify the film. It is, essentially, just the story of two businesses competing against each other. Apart from some snide comments from Edison to the press, there's very little interaction between our protagonists and the depth of their scheming doesn't actually become that dramatic. There are a few stylistic choices within the film were a little questionable, cutting away to artistic Zoetrope images. It's not that they are badly done, they just come a little out of nowhere.
"The Current War" was a decent way to waste a few hours in the company of some decent actors, but as a biopic of any of the protagonists, it wasn't very ................................ wait for it ............................. Illuminating.
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