Who made who
The story of the fight to develop early America’s electrical infrastructure is a great story that is dying to be told. Unfortunately, The Current War doesn’t do a great job of telling that story and it is too artistically undisciplined for its own good.
The film is riddled with gimmicky camera angles and baffling editing choices and jump cuts that boggle the mind and annoyingly distract from the otherwise fascinating story. I hate to use the word amateur to describe the filmmaking here, but it does seem as though this movie was done as an expensive student film project – albeit with first-rate actors.
The story centers on Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is attempting to bring his light bulbs and direct power electricity to the dark American cities of the late 1800s. George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon ) is competing with Edison with his alternating current electrical plans; while Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), the most intelligent of the three men, is stuck in a financial rut between the other two.
Competing patents, politics, greed, corruption, money and glory all pull the players into battle as the country tries to determine the best way to illuminate the fledgling nation. Ironically, maybe Australia’s AC/DC band said it best with their song, “Who made who?”
The film also stars Tom Holland as Samuel Insull, one of Edison’s influential associates, and Matthew Macfadyen as J.P. Morgan, whose money is behind much of the aforementioned politics and greed.
The movie does succeed in showing that even the making electrical sausage is not pretty and its intriguing story is still somewhat intact; it is simply a shame that, as directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, it is buried behind the subpar filmmaking.
None of the major characters are developed to the extent that they need to be in order to make them interesting and sympathetic, and the endlessly fascinating tale of Nikola Tesla should have been the focus here, but is almost completely lost in this film.
The whole sordid story is probably better suited for the Ken Burns documentary treatment (and I would love to see that), nevertheless, The Current War does have enough brief moments to make it worthwhile for those interested in its subject matter.
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