The Industrial Superheroes of Yore Clash in The Current War: Director’s Cut

How unusually handsome men fought over who would power the nation’s grid.

It would seem to violate the laws of causality to append the subtitle “Director’s Cut” for a film’s initial theatrical release, but welcome to movies now. The original version of the Alfonso Gomez-Rejon picture now called The Current War: Director’s Cut which played at TIFF ’17 was famously one of the last movies Harvey Weinstein fiddled with, so this re-fiddling might as well be titled The Current War: Harvey Weinstein Can Go Fuck Himself. With the 1893 World’s Fair as the ticking clock, Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his chief assistant Samuel Insull (Tom Holland) square off against George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) to determine whether the United States will be powered by Edison’s beloved direct current, or Westinghouse’s more practical alternating current. (Yep, it’s Doctor Strange and Spider-Man teaming up against General Zod. Welcome to movies now.) Gomez-Rejon shoots this infrastructure origin story like an action movie, complete with heart-pounding closeups of old-timey technology, and plenty of wide vistas and dramatically stormy nighttime skies. But the brightest idea in The Current War: Harvey Whostein Now? is the casting of Cumberbatch; his charisma softens Edison’s well-documented dickishness, which the film itself never fully engages with. Meanwhile, Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) pops up occasionally because he’s beloved in the 2010s, and even historical dramas need to remain current.

Rated PG-13.
Opens Friday at the AMC Metreon 16 and the AMC Dine-In Kabuki.

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