“So, what’s your trade?”
“I fix problems for idiots.”
The Current War tells the story of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in a fight to propel us into the modern world with each of their own specific electricity currents. With the events of the film happening during the late 1800s, the two men compete to light up the world, sabotaging each other along the way, and ending with an unexpected outcome to their competition. The Current War was set to be released in 2017, but sadly found itself in the middle of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. After being shelved for two years, and various reshoots in the process, The Current War: Director’s Cut makes one last effort to appeal to audiences, but ends up leaving something to be desired.
The story is interesting in concept, but gets lost in execution. The Current War, though heavy in star power, brings about some of the dullest performances from its actors. Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, who respectively play Edison and Westinghouse, are never able to fully embrace their characters. There’s an obvious disconnect between the actor and the character they’re playing. That’s shocking to say, because Shannon is undoubtedly one of the best living actors today. In addition to that, Nicholas Hoult, who plays Nikola Tesla, is hardly ever seen onscreen. And to be quite frank, is more of a burden to the film’s narrative, as his character’s storyline, though important, is forced.
The majority of The Current War’s problems are heavily plagued by the script. The script is so character focused, yet never flushes them out. The dialogue is dry, the scenes fail to pack an emotional punch, and overall, lacks the fundamentals of a true historical drama. There are moments where the film tries to make us sympathize with the characters, but to no avail, fails to emotionally connect to its audience. The Current War gives us several pieces of fascinating information, but is never able to be the standout film it wants to be. And because of that, will lack any notoriety in future years. Even with its short comings with its writing, The Current War could have made up for it in directing. However, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, can’t quite bring all the pieces together. Gomez’s inadequate ability to guide this film provides just one more element that makes this film lackluster.
It’s hard to say what could have been for The Current War. This historical drama makes a late debut, with nothing more to see than a bland drama. The Current War could have been Weinstein’s baby, and the film he threw money at for marketing to Academy voters. It’s that much of an Oscar bait film. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Current War is terrible, but maybe this film can only be applauded by a small niche of people. In the end, The Current War has been left out and forgotten, only to spoil on the shelf in that time.
The Current War
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston, Matthew Macfadyen, and Tom Holland