Quick Read Review
The Current War has been on quite a journey before finally hitting our cinema screens. Originally premiered to lukewarm reviews at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2017. The Weinstein produced historical exploration of Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse was then put on ice following the collapse of Weinstein and his company after sexual assault allegations.
Now released with no mention of the Weinstein company attached, the film has also been significantly re-edited, with scenes cut and added by Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Claiming that the original edit did not meet his vision, and that he was pressurised to produce the first version of the film by Weinstein.
Focussing on the rivalry and competition between Westinghouse and Edison to bring electricity to American towns and cities from 1880 to 1893. This is a film that stumbles around its core themes, never quite knowing whether it is historical event based drama or a character study of a business man and inventor. From the outset you find yourself disliking both men in equal measure, the focus placed purely of their ambition rather than their humanity and creative talent. This is in no way a criticism of the highly talented cast, with Cumberbatch (Edison) and Shannon (Westinghouse) giving their all in trying to make a dull, uninteresting script work.
Then we have Tesla (Hoult) who in many ways is one of the most interesting characters, a highly intelligent and visionary immigrant, who’s ideas are way ahead of his time, but lacks any business sense in ensuring they become a reality. Hoult also does a fine job here, despite his character being bounced around, forgotten and then re-surfacing when the script dictates.
Filmed in the U.K, The Current War has moments of visual beauty, but forgoes these with camera work that tries desperately to ensure this is not a mainstream historical drama. Equally the story fumbles along, adding new themes while then quickly dismissing them, creating a film that goes from lightbulbs to AC/DC currents and the creation of the electric chair in a scattergun fashion. This is not to say there are not interesting themes at play, and at times the story does find its feet and provide reasonable entertainment and thought provoking ideas. However these segments are never maintained, and despite the cast giving strong performances, they ultimately cannot rescue a film where the core problems lay within the script and direction.
The Current War never finds its footing, and despite a story centred around the birth of electricity it never manages to find the spark needed to elevate it above the mediocre.