Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Current War: Director’s Cut

The Current War: Director’s Cut
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Released October 25, 2019

Our civilization is powered by electricity, and, as such, it’s hard to imagine a time when that wasn’t the case. Today, different companies compete to market similar products, with repackaging and rebranding far more frequent than actual genuine innovation. Looking towards the future and seeing beyond that which is immediately attainable is the surest way to achieve lasting success and truly change the world. It’s rare that just one person with one idea charts the course, and competition, good-natured or not, can drive the path forward, powered by money, ambition, and, more than anything, vision.

In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) brings the lightbulb to market and seeks to light the country using the direct current method. Confident that alternating current is the smarter alternative, George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) tries to work with Edison, but, finding himself snubbed, begins testing and production separately. Initially hired by Edison but squandered and undervalued, futurist Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) blazes his own path towards a grand notion of powering the entire country. All three men believe they can accomplish great things yet rarely see eye-to-eye on the sticking point of credit and, most crucially, current.

This film is being released theatrically more than two years after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, apparently retooled due to poor reviews and to erase any trace of its former distributor, The Weinstein Company. The result is a visually impressive film teeming with strong performers, all thoroughly entrenched in their roles. The cinematography is more than a bit indulgent, and there isn’t any one narrative or editorial style consistent throughout the film, perhaps unintentionally representative of the incongruous relationship of these three geniuses.

Cumberbatch, previously nominated for an Oscar for playing another underappreciated inventor in “The Imitation Game,” immerses himself in the role of Edison, though his performance never feels fully genuine. Shannon is typically great even if the part doesn’t demand much of him, and Hoult is both having fun and delivering a fine turn in the process. In the supporting cast, Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston, and Matthew Macfadyen are well-cast as Edison’s secretary, Westinghouse’s wife, and funder J.P. Morgan, respectively. The plot is genuinely interesting – and often entertaining – and the aesthetic design aids an involving viewing experience. By film’s end, this story feels like it’s been worth telling, even if it’s not quite as lightbulb-brilliant as it could have been.


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