It’s a little known story of opposing wholesale fruit & veg suppliers battling to supply shops with dried fruit notably dried grapes but unfortunately this week’s new release is The Current War and not The Currant War (‘You’re Fired!’ – Ed) Instead we have the story of Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla and their race to determine just whose electrical system would power America and in turn the World.
The Current War is one of those ‘inspired’ by true events which inevitably means that though the dates of the battle and key events which began back in 1880 are true there’s been some playing hard and fast with facts. Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his assistant Samuel Insull (Tom Holland) and, much like Dr Strange and Spiderman, team up in a bid to get huge funding for their AC electricity putting it against the self made wealth of Westinghouse’s DC electrical system in a bid to provide each city across America with their own system. For the first hour the film does whizz along , beautifully photographed with some great shots by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Edison is the name that most of us know due to the catalogue of other inventions he came up with (his patent for sound & vision on film was ironically the basis for motion pictures) but he is the poor man here desperate for funding and playing a game of brinkmanship with his banker backers and in an era before PR he was unafraid to belittle and badmouth Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) even if it ended up in court to continue his smear campaign about Westinghouse alleging that his system of providing electricity could kill. The irony was that in Edison’s desperation in order to get further funding for his invention, much to his chagrin, came up with the electric chair despite his earlier vow that his invention should never take a life – a bit like going on a blind date only to find its Peter Sutcliffe.
Cumberbatch’s is the more showy role as Edison a man who is presented as a self aggrandizing, self publicist who is stubborn and arrogant in order to get his own way but the tragedy of his wife dying young leaving him with two small children is not really explored. Michael Shannon is not the bad guy he often plays but is more sombre and considered as Westinghouse . The story becomes somewhat confusing in its latter half with Nicholas Hoult as the inventor Tesla, a man with an Inspector Clouseau accent but who worked for Edison before he flounced off when his ideas were dismissed by Edison.
The Current War is engrossing enough in its first half but becomes increasingly about a battle over patents with the eventual partnership becoming a necessity as costs for both of them spiraled and AC/DC being the only way forward and their story of becoming one of the premier rock groups with Edison changing his name to Angus and dressing as a school boy rocking out on lead guitar……(You’re an idiot! And you’re still fired ! – Ed). The final credits outline just how much a genius Edison was and how important the other figures were. The Current War has been sitting on the shelf since 2017 due to the Weinstein scandal which broke as this was going into post production and the company sold it off before they shut down. Though it does have some very good moments this is one for Cumberbitches and science fans only.
Here’s The Current War trailer…….
You got the AC/DC dispute backward. Edison championed DC against his former employee, Nicola Tesla’s AC. It turns out that AC is superior technology in most power applications.