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The Current War: Director’s Cut

Remember when something happened that made you realize you were officially an adult? It could be the first time you made a payment on a brand new car, or buying your first home. For me, it was weirder. It was being in a museum and actually wanting to read about some of the things thatI was looking at; and seeing a movie (like this), that had educational aspects, but also entertained me, without the use of car chases or gun fire. I thought watching a period piece about a bunch of geniuses inventing the electric light bulb would be a snore fest. Yet I was so enthralled that, the third time a person a few seats away from me turned on the glowing light of his cell phone — I smacked him with my newspaper and told him to knock it off. He looked at me stunned for a few seconds, and…about 10 minutes later he pulled out his phone and walked out of the theatre. If only Edison could have seen what his lights have done to the movie going audiences! (He also patented a movie camera.)But I digress.

Speaking of walking out, some may have heard that this is the film that almost didn’t get released because of The Weinstein Company and what was happening with Harvey Weinstein. And then after it didn’t do so well at the Toronto Film Festival a few years ago, a director’s cut was made (which is the one being released this weekend), and I’m happy to report — it’s  interesting.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon did one of my favorite movies of 2015 — Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. And while this movie is far from making my Top 10 this year, it’s an enjoyable watch.

One of my favorite actors is in this (Michael Shannon), playing George Westinghouse. All I knew was the name of the company, and you’re expecting him to be evil (I mean, how could he not be if Shannon is playing him?). Yet he’s a rather principled industrialist, and it’s Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch), that’s a bit shady. Especially when he starts killing more horses than the Del Mar Race track to prove a point about Westinghouse’s new system.

I thought Cumberbatch might bring some baggage to this, as he’s played the genius on Sherlock, and Imitation Game; yet I didn’t think of those characters. I actually thought more of Dennis Quaid while watching him smile, and spout out a few arrogant lines to colleagues. 

I didn’t even recognize it was Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men) playing Nikola Tesla (I’m guessing his real life story would make a much more interesting film than any of the other characters we saw here).

It’s always more fun to watch a picture like this when you’re not familiar with the history behind it. Who knew there was a race between Edison’s light bulbs providing electricity and Westinghouse backing Alternating Current? And which company would win the contract to light the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair?

Of course there’s money involved, so J.P. Morgan (Matthew McFadyen) makes an appearance.

Edison’s secretary (Tom Holland) seems to show the wonder and awe that regular folks display him when he’s out in public (we see a few people asking for autographs, even a doctor making a house call).

Wives Mary Edison and Marguerite Westinghouse (Tuppence Middleton, Katherine Waterston), aren’t given a lot to do, but during the 1800s, most wives probably weren’t. And they do spark a bit (no pun intended) when there are feuds brewing.

The period details appear spot-on, and are mesmerizing to look at.

My wife mentioned as we were walking to the car, “I never knew Westinghouse created those steam brakes on trains.” 

Who does, that doesn’t work with trains? And it never even occurred to me, that the electric chair was something Edison was a part of creating. You’ll be shocked (pun intended) at how the first one turns out.

This is a gorgeous looking picture, and it might snag a few Oscar nominations.

3 stars out of 5.

 

 

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