Monday, 5 August 2019

Film: 'The Current War'

I found this an oddity, and not a terribly satisfactory one either.
As far as I know it's virgin territory for this particular story in the cinema - the competition between Thomas A. Edison, played by Benedict Cumbersome (sorry, couldn't resist!) and one George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) as to which of them would be the one to install a nationwide system of electric power in the U.S.A. 
One particularly unsavoury feature I wasn't expecting is that an inordinate proportion of the film deals with who would design the first electric chair for capital punishment.  Eventually we see not only the first 'occupier' of that means of execution but, leading up to it, a demonstration of a horse being electrocuted.  All this was a prequel to my leaving the cinema with a nasty aftertaste lingering.   If this kind of thing simply washes over you, fine, but I was left almost wishing I hadn't seen the film.   

It's an exceedingly busy feature with very few shots lasting more than, perhaps, five seconds.  If this was a technique to insure against one getting bored it didn't work in my case as, despite its visual flitting here and there like a hyper-active butterfly, it was peculiarly stodgy in a convoluted story which quickly lost me and my interest.
The rivalry between the two men is so bitter throughout that I was only surprised they didn't challenge each other to a duel.  There's also some betrayal in what passes between the respective assistants of both of them in stealing each other's secrets, all making for a thorough unpleasantness with frayed tempers on display,   Cumberbatch's Edison being the more cerebral of the two, and feeling particularly hard done by as the film progresses.  Both the latter and Shannon as Westinghouse represent two towering intellects burning up with jealousy against the other in a strangely stolid film. 
As nearly all of the action takes place before widespread electricity is in use, much of it involves inadequate gas-lit scenes, not always easy to decipher.

During the film I had the leisure to ask myself what was wrong with it to explain my lack of engagement.  I thought at first that it might be the screenplay, though listening carefully, that aspect wasn't especially weak. 
The photography was generally good or very good, befitting of the subject matter, with some impressive vistas now and again. 
I failed to pin down the fault other than identifying the underlying repugnance I had towards certain aspects of the story which I've mentioned earlier, so my partiality may be at least some way to blame.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has made a few cinema features before but nothing to have got him especially noticed.  Maybe he was trying too hard with this one with all those tricksy visuals?  I don't know. I only throw out the thought.

I don't think it's a film to warm to.  Might be useful as an historical representation of a little-documented episode, little represented at least in popular culture.  And was this matter of creating an electric chair truthfully so pivotal as this film seems to imply?  

Not a film I can whole-heartedly recommend, though others may differ from my very personal appraisal.  I can safely say that I for one won't be watching it again...............5. 

(IMDb..................6.2 / Rott.Toms (critics only)......31% )


  1. I never get Mr. BC's name correct so I avoid saying it.

    1. As unique as this film is peculiar, Dr Spo.