Ben’s Breakdown | Historical drama charges up “The Current War”
We here at TG2 Studios had the pleasure of attending the opening night of the Peoria Film Festival (which is part of the much larger Phoenix Film Festival) Thursday night on October 10th and the film they screened to kick things off was a fascinating historical drama titled The Current War.
In the late 1800s, the world saw a corporate battle take place between two electrical titans, them being Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. At first, it started small with the light bulb but escalated to new heights all because of opposing electrical philosophies. Edison was convinced that the best and ultimately most cost-effective method was to use direct current, and Westinghouse believed that the most efficient method was alternating current. What resulted was a battle that slowly saw Edison gaining ground in the War Of The Currents. However, a wildcard entered into the picture that could practically guarantee a victory to either side, and that man was Nikola Tesla. Now it all boils down to whoever can get the bid to light up the Chicago World’s Fair.
What we have here is a unique battle with Dr. Strange and Spider-Man, as they face off against General Zod, and Hank McCoy / Beast is on the sideline waiting to see which side he’ll take. That came off as odd, yes? Well, that’s because this movie has a lead cast made up of such veterans from the superhero movie genre, those being Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, Tom Holland as Edison’s secretary Samuel Insull, Michael Shannon as Westinghouse, and Nicholas Hoult as Tesla. However this casting came about is pretty much a moot point because, even though the story of this film is about this 19th Century Corporate war, there is nothing here that stands out as far as any acting performances go. That’s not to say that there were any bad performances. Each member of the cast did their job to the best of their ability. What is the real magic of this film is what director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon crafted here. Having previously served as a personal assistant to Martin Scorsese (who was also the executive producer for this film), Gomez-Rejon has created a film that is a visual piece of historical art. Each frame of this film is something to behold in the way that it is presented. Every camera angle is carefully thought out to give the appropriate highlight and emphasis on the characters and how they are behaving at that given moment. Even in a scene where Westinghouse and Edison are conversing, Shannon is made to look as if he’s towering over Cumberbatch, despite the fact that there are less than three inches between the two (Shannon is taller), and when Westinghouse is seen entering a room the camera is deliberately placed low as to help establish what type of metaphorical giant he’s supposed to be, which is rather reminiscent of what Orson Wells did when he made Citizen Kane. Gomez-Rejon also directed some rather long exterior shots that were incredibly beautiful in their construction that only helped in making The Current War a visually beautiful film. If there is any disappointment here is that we don’t see anything truly special in terms of the cast. As I said before, they were more than competent in their performances. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the material that would allow for actors of this caliber to dig into. The characters were, for the most part, very restrained individuals, which leaves with little for this cast to do except deliver their lines and hit their marks to the best of their ability.
The story, written by Michael Mitnick, is a fascinating look at these giants. It does not sugar coat the true nature of these men, especially that of Edison. With all of the time that has passed since his death, it would be easy to think of Edison in a predominantly positive light, but Mitnick’s story shows that Edison was no saint. He was a genius, but the real character spotlight is Edison’s tenacity at achieving whatever he wanted, and if being rude helped to achieve that goal then Edison would do it. On the other hand, this story shows through a combination of conversations and flashbacks how much of a strategist Westinghouse was. As a result, it became difficult to cheer for either Edison or Westinghouse since the story here basically shows them both as being good men who simply wished to succeed at almost all costs.
The Current War is a movie that was supposed to be released a couple of years ago, but ended up in a vault during Harvey Weinstein’s public persona problems and only recently saw the light and is scheduled to be released in theaters on October 25th. There is also a Director’s Cut of this film that runs 1 hr 47 min., which is about 12 minutes longer than what we saw. Nevertheless, this was a fascinating look at a historical period that would redefine how people lived and operated throughout the day, and as fascinating as this material is, it is only exceeded by the dazzling visual quality of the film.
For its solid story and sheer visual beauty, I give The Current War 4.5 out of 5 Volts!!!
Facebook: The Current War – Director’s Cut