THE CURRENT WAR – Review by Susan Granger

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Beginning in 1880, engineer/ inventor Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and industrialist George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) embarked on a race to electrify America.

Edison utilized direct current (DC), which – while it had distance limitations – was “safer,” but more expensive, while Westinghouse, working with his visionary Serbian partner Nikolai Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), favored alternating current (AC), which had a longer range and was less costly.

While the results of their technological rivalry could be seen at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, controversy erupted when death penalty commissioner Southwick Brown solicited Edison to develop the electric chair. Edison refused because of his non-violence principles but both he and Westinghouse surreptitiously suppled generators used in capital punishment.

Previously, experiments were performed on dogs, calves and horses in Edison’s New Jersey laboratory and Columbia University in New York, subjecting the animals to high volts of AC which killed them.

Eventually, AC won this corporate feud, and Edison moved on to other inventions. His Edison Electric became General Electric as America launched its own Industrial Revolution.

Originally scheduled for release by the Weinstein Company, this historical saga was mired in that company’s bankruptcy after Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct. Along the way, there were delays and revisions, including a print edited by “Harvey Scissorhands” making an unfortunate debut at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival.

“That was incredibly painful,” Gomez-Rejon told “Variety.” “Because you go up on-stage, representing the cast and crew…and you know, deep in your heart, that you haven’t been allowed to give your best.”

Which is why this salvaged version is labelled “Director’s Cut,” crediting Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and editors Justin Krohn and David Trachtenberg.

Unfortunately, Michael Mitnick’s muddled screenplay lacks character delineation and development. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s pacing is choppy. Cumberbatch’s Edison is abrasive and arrogant, while Shannon’s Westinghouse is far more sympathetic. Yet they meet face-to-face only briefly.

As a result, on the Granger Movie Gauge, The Current War is a flaccid 5, lacking tension and energy.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.