Review: The Current War Starring Benedict Cumberbatch

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The Current War

Benedict Cumberbath in ‘The Current War’ (Photo Credit: Dean Roger)

“Today the impossible becomes possible,” declares Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he lights up a section of Manhattan using electricity for the first time in the historical drama, The Current War.

The film tells the true story of the two greatest inventors of the industrial age: Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon). The brilliant inventors end up in a cutthroat competition to see whose electrical system will power the U. S. in the 20th century.

Edison has the edge as he’s already discovered how to put his electricity to work. He demonstrates this by lighting up a small portion of Manhattan with funding provided by JP Morgan (Matthew Macfadyen). But Westinghouse remains in the competition, teaming up with another visionary, Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult). Together they challenge Edison’s direct current design with a highly risky and dangerous alternating current.

Extremely well-acted and surprisingly intriguing, The Current War: Director’s Cut is an effective period piece about the race between two titans of industry and visionaries who desperately wanted the opportunity and, more importantly, the credit for lighting up the United States.

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a dynamic performance as Thomas Edison, America’s greatest inventor. Cumberbatch portrays Edison as a tough, blunt, passionate but ill-mannered man determined to be the one responsible for providing America with light via his idea of direct current. Cumberbatch also captures the man’s love for his family who, at times, he takes for granted and neglects while chasing his electrical dream.



Michael Shannon is perfect in the role of George Westinghouse, a man also determined to be the one to light up America but through a cheaper and more dangerous method. Shannon plays Westinghouse as a very decent, cordial, and loyal man of industry who finally ends up turning cutthroat in his race against Edison to keep his business alive.

Nicholas Hoult delivers a solid performance as Nikola Tesla who initially is an employee of Edison’s but eventually partners up with Westinghouse against him. Tesla is at best a secondary or supportive role and the script never really delves into what kind of man he was other than that he was a foreigner and a bit odd socially.

The look of the film is fantastic with the costumes and set design vividly bringing back to life America in the late 1880s and 1890s. The scenes on the train as Edison’s traveling trying to acquire funding for his endeavor, and when he lights up part of old Manhattan, are flawless.

With powerhouse performances and a stimulating story of how America was finally brought out of the darkness and into the light with the power of electricity, The Current War is an entertaining historical drama that shines a light on an fascinating period in history.

GRADE: B+

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violent content and thematic elements

Running Time: 101 minutes

Release Date: October 25, 2019

Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Studio: 101 Studios




Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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