Review: The Current War: Director’s Cut

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: This is a story inspired by the race between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, one that would ultimately bring electricity to the modern world.

REVIEW: It’s no easy feat to make a subject matter like the invention of electricity compelling. Oftentimes, biographical stories play it safe and feel downright generic. However, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon isn’t your typical filmmaker. With his latest, THE CURRENT WAR, he creates a vivid and fascinating look at the battle to bring the invention of power and lights to the general public. It was a long fought and devious war between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), as well as the work of Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult). This race to bring America into a brand new era is beautifully explored in this fast paced and artfully done feature. In fact, this smart and entertaining examination brings the subject matter to life in an unexpected way. Hell, you could even call it electrifying.

The story begins with both Edison and Westinghouse attempting to bring their inventions to the public at large. We learn that Edison has already proven his worth and become a bit of a celebrity. However, Westinghouse is hot on his trails attempting to offer this innovation to the common man – as well as the rich. For Thomas, he has the support of his loving wife Mary (Tuppence Middleton), his children, and his loyal assistant Samuel Insull (Tom Holland). George also finds support from his wife Marguerite (Katherine Waterston), a woman who appreciates her husbands bold ideas. And when a young and dynamic inventor by the name of Nikola Tesla offers his services to Edison, the war builds to one event that would forever change our future; lighting the 1893 World’s Fair.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, The Current War, Nicholas Hoult, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, drama, biographicalThis story could have been easily been treated as a straight forward and obvious biography, thankfully, it’s far more riveting than that. Alfonso and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung present an exciting, and dare I say electric, portrayal of the events and characters that led to one of the most important modern inventions to date. This is a stylishly shot, and gorgeously alive feature. Beautifully photographed, the film embraces the story and paints some of the most impressive imagery that you are likely to see this year. It's a gorgeous film that also happens to give insight into what has been called the “race to light the world.” From the opening sequence – one that takes place on a snow covered landscape –  to Edison’s gorgeous reveal of the power he discovered is absolutely unforgettable.

As far as the on-screen talent is concerned, you really couldn’t do much better than what you’ve got here. Cumberbatch is terrific as Edison, a man who so desires to bring his vision to the world. It’s a complicated role as we must feel sympathy for the complex and not always honest inventor, husband and father. While he makes a few seriously unethical choices, his love for his family helps humanize him. As for Shannon, the actor brings a certain gravitas to every role he inhabits, and he ably brings an understanding to Westinghouse. His relationship with his wife – Waterston is quite impressive here – is especially well handled. The actress manages to bring a balance of kindness with a hint of a Lady Macbeth as she protectively supports her husband. The rest of the cast adds strong support including Hoult, Middleton, Holland and Matthew Macfadyn as J.P. Morgan.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, The Current War, Director's Cut, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Shannon, Benedict Cumberbatch, biographical, drama, 2019You may notice that the film’s official title is THE CURRENT WAR: DIRECTOR’S CUT. This is because this tale was presented to TIFF a few years back in a very different state. Originally, the length was around two and a half hours, and the studio executives wanted to rush the film’s release. Thankfully, the filmmaker had the opportunity to present his vision of this incredible time in history once again. And now, running just over an hour and forty-five minutes, THE CURRENT WAR is perfectly paced and frankly quite thrilling. It also helps that the score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrianns adds a unique mix of modern electronic sounds with a hint of classical thrown in. As well, the script by Michael Mitnick ably captures the fierce battle between the two inventors in a satisfying way. The film has changed so much, that I hope audiences who caught it at TIFF years back take another look at what is one of the most impressively shot films of the year.

THE CURRENT WAR: DIRECTOR’S CUT is a sublime feature examining this exceptional time in history. It manages to keep viewer’s engaged in what could have easily been a slow and drawn out history lesson. In fact, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon injects a level of energy into this stirring examination that brings a sort of timeless quality to the movie going experience. Gorgeously shot with strong performances and an impressive score, this is the type of film that educates in an enjoyable way. Hopefully those that witnessed the film in its earlier form will give it another look. Ultmiately, the director's cut is an impressively done feature that brings the invention of electricity to life with an exciting and fresh vision. Inspired by true events, THE CURRENT WAR is one of the most eye-popping and engaging features of the year, one that is well worth seeking out.

The Current War




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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.