The Ethics of Electricity

The Current War

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, Damien Molony, John Schwab, Conor MacNeill

Film Rating: 8 out of 10 – Highly Recommended Viewing

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon served as second unit director to Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and follows his second feature film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl with The Current War featuring a host of British and American stars including Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as electricity inventor Thomas Edison opposite Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) as George Westinghouse.

Set in America in the 1880’s and the events leading up to the Chicago World Fair in 1893, Westinghouse develops alternative current electricity while Edison creates direct current electricity. As both Westinghouse and Edison woo the financial support of investment banker J. P. Morgan wonderfully played by Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms) they develop electricity and its current at an alarming pace lighting up first the American eastern seaboard and then stretching West to the Mid-West and beyond.

Soon the ethics of producing powerful electric currents are called into question when a New York government official Rudolf Young played by John Schwab is planning the first execution via the electric chair of convicted wife killer William Kemmler played by Irish actor Conor MacNeill.

The conflict within The Current War is between Westinghouse and Edison while the eccentric and penniless immigrant Nikola Tesla wonderfully played by Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite, A Single Man) invents the capacity for electricity to be automated and used in machines. Tesla was also credited with harnessing the power of the Niagara Falls for hydroelectricity which produces limitless amounts of current.

It’s no coincidence that Elon Musk’s electric car company Tesla is named after this enigmatic inventor who never received the credit due to him while alive as he got caught between the rivalry of Westinghouse, Edison and the manipulative banker J. P. Morgan who produced the capital to start one of the most famous electricity companies in the world: General Electric.

The Current War is a fast paced story of how 19th century America was electrified by Edison and Westinghouse and the rivalry which consumed them yet changed society forever.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon smartly employs fast paced editing and some stylistic flourishes to keep The Current War engaging, light and historically fascinating. Audiences should look out for Tom Holland (Spiderman, Far from Home, The Lost City of Z) as Edison’s loyal assistant Samuel Insull and Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts) as Marguerite Westinghouse and Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game, Jupiter Ascending) as the long suffering Mary Edison.

For history buffs, catch The Current War which gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is especially relevant today considering that now the human population depend upon electricity.

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