Initially scheduled for release in 2017, The Current War will finally illuminate the big screen with its story about two industrial titans of the late 19th century, Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon).
This is no yawn-provoking American history lesson, but rather a fascinating study about the best way to usher in the Age of Electricity. It’s a stylized period piece melded with a fiery script and superb acting by a talented cast.
In 1882, the handsome, stylish Edison flips the switch on his power station on Pearl Street in Manhattan, for the first time providing electricity to homes at a competitive price. It wowed the masses.
But the visionary, blinded by his celebrity and ambition, turns to fear tactics in an attempt to dissuade those who prefer Westinghouse’s alternating current (AC) over his direct current (DC) system.
The mutton-chopped Westinghouse, aided by science maverick Nikola Tesla (Nicolas Hoult), tries his best to stay grounded during the assaults. He’s just as determined as his rival to get his creation established, but he’s also willing to compromise.
The “Wizard of Menlo Park,” however, has no interest in cooperating.
“This is a battle of the greatest minds in America,” Edison proclaims.
Westinghouse retorts: “If you want to be remembered, it’s simple: Shoot a president. But if you prefer to have what I call a legacy, you leave the world a better place than you found it.”
Highlighting one of the greatest corporate feuds in American history, this film demonstrates that the concept and the power of electricity were always much bigger than a pair of men fighting for first place in the history books.
When the film premiered at the 2017
Toronto Film Festival, it garnered lukewarm reviews. Instead of being released that year, it was shelved following the Harvey Weinstein
sexual abuse scandal and the company’s subsequent bankruptcy.
Eventually, distribution rights were sold to a new company, 101 Studios.
That delay was a silver lining, according to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who told Entertainment Weekly it gave him a second chance to make necessary changes. The
overhaul includes five new scenes and runs about 10 minutes short of the original.
“I’m ready for an epilogue to this story that’s actually a happy ending after a few years of it being a bit of a struggle for so many involved,” he said.
We shall see if he was right when awards season arrives.
Executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, The Current War opens October 25th nationwide.