Although this film was first screened in 2017, it has been refined and re-edited since then by its director to create this new director's cut. And it has finally gained wider distribution to now be shown throughout Utah. And in this case, good things come to those who wait. Historical dramas like The Current War: Director's Cut are often revered because they offer immersive portraits of history, and The Current War: Director's Cut does that wonderfully. But it also gives viewers a glimpse into the minds of some amazing people who created the foundations of modern life.
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, 2017), this story of American ambition follows Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch, Avengers: Endgame, 2019) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water, 2017) competing against each other to build a network of urban electrical grids across the United States starting in the 1880s. Using the very American tools of publicity, fame, and ego, one great inventor works to discredit the innovations of the other as Westinghouse's alternating current of electricity gains success over Edison's direct current. Viewers will learn not just about the details of electrical current but also about some of its unexpected byproducts...including the electric chair and the idealistic visions of Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult, Tolkien, 2019).
Set in a time period over a century ago, the dynamic musical score, spry dialogue, and brisk editing style make this film feel surprisingly contemporary. And the psychologically tense mood is sustained throughout, keeping the story rushing forward like an impatient angry train. Yes, The Current War: Director's Cut is set in the past, but it's almost entirely about the future.
Writing a film like this that addresses so many people, so many historical events, and so many ideas is obviously not easy and not often done well in the current-day mainstream films of Hollywood. (You remember my issues from last week about the mess of ideas in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.) But I'm thrilled to say the writing in The Current War: Director's Cut is efficient, shrewd, and informative while also offering moments layered with emotion, so everything flowed quickly and gracefully.
An overarching theme in this film is the marriage of myth and history (and the original screenplay combines both). What makes a man an enduring legend? Is it hard work? Obsession? Popularity? Humility? Watch this film (please) and decide for yourself.