My favorite thing about The Current War is that it takes the history and science seriously, and yet it doesn’t let them bog down the plot. There are a few liberties taken with the history, but they are understandable — after all, Westinghouse had his personal papers burned, saying he preferred to be measured by his deeds. Being historically accurate does have a cost. The events play out over more than a decade, and it can feel like you’re rushing through to check off the greatest hits from someone’s life. Still, I vastly prefer this approach to the usual Hollywood shenanigans of compressing time and making up events out of whole cloth.
The look of The Current War is daring, to say the least. The part that doesn’t work is useless and distracting title cards that introduce each character. The camera work is beautiful, though. From blown-out snowscapes to jarring train passages, to swooping overhead shots, you’ll never be visually bored. Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, known for his work with Chan-wook Park (The Handmaiden, Oldboy), and more recently It, keeps this from feeling like a BBC play. Some reviewers have found using new camera techniques on a 19th-century story off-putting, but I think it is magnificent. It keeps the story fresh and underscores that this is a timely film.
“…moves at a faster pace than the original, the characters are better fleshed out, and the drama is more focused where it needs to be.”
In fact, The Current War is more relevant today than you might imagine. For a start, these battles that went on more than a century ago affect your life every day as you use electricity. But more than that, we’re still stuck with titans of industry who have created world-changing things, but whose egos are their own worst enemy. There are bits of Edison in Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg for sure. And yet others, like Bill Gates, have taken the Westinghouse approach and have managed to rise above the fray.
In the end, The Current War: Director’s Cut is interesting, enjoyable, and illuminating. It has mostly well-realized characters without deviating too much from history. After a tumultuous few years, the movie has emerged in imperfect form, but miles better than it used to be. But hey, I’ll take a slightly flawed, but accurate version of the adventures of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse over the usual Hollywood formulaic fare any day.
"…is more relevant today than you might imagine."