24th January 2021

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The Current War

Character: Samuel Insull
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by: Michael Mitnick
Produced by: Timur Bekmambetov, Basil Iwanyk & Harvey Weinstein
Other cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Katherine Waterston
Release date: July 26, 2019 (UK)
Premiere date: October 15, 2017 (USA)
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Running time: 107 minutes

Three brilliant visionaries set off in a charged battle for the future in The Current War, the epic story of the cutthroat competition that literally lit up the modern world. Benedict Cumberbatch is Thomas Edison, the celebrity inventor on the verge of bringing electricity to Manhattan with his radical new DC technology. On the eve of triumph, his plans are upended by charismatic businessman George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), who believes he and his partner, the upstart genius Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), have a superior idea for how to rapidly electrify America: with AC current. As Edison and Westinghouse grapple for who will power the nation, they spark one of the first and greatest corporate feuds in American history, establishing for future Titans of Industry the need to break all the rules. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) with Producer Timur Bekmambetov, Basil Iwanyk and Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, The Current War also stars ...

Trailer

Plot

It is 1880 and Thomas Edison has unveiled his electric lightbulb and has decided on Direct Current (DC) which is cheaper and cleaner than gaslight but it is limited in range and expensive. George Westinghouse, a successful business man and inventor himself, wishes to learn more, and invites Edison to dinner. After being snubbed by Edison, Westinghouse sets out to prove Alternating Current (AC) is the better technology as it can work over greater distances and at significantly lower cost. Edison and Westinghouse compete to get cities across the United States to use their system. Brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla arrives in the United States and begins working with Edison, but is disappointed by Edison’s unwillingness to reconsider his ideas and to fulfill what Tesla thought was a financial promise which Edison passes off as just a joke. Tesla then leaves Edison’s team. Edison fiercely guards his patents and sues Westinghouse.

Edison suggests that AC is dangerous and engages in a publicity war, while Westinghouse stands behind the technical merits of AC. As Edison struggles to find ways to make DC more affordable, Westinghouse attempts to get the high-voltage AC system to work with motors. Edison’s wife dies, and Westinghouse is also struck with personal tragedy when his friend Franklin Pope dies in an electrical accident. Both face significant financial risk. To generate funds Edison commercially sells his speaking machine “The Phonograph”. To damage the reputation of AC, Edison shows that it easily electrocutes animals, and secretly works to help the creators of execution by electric chair, despite his previous objections to manufacturing weapons or other machines of death. The first person to die by electrocution is William Kemmler, and newspapers label the event as “Far Worse Than Hanging”. Westinghouse discovers Edison’s involvement and reveals it to the press.

After an unsuccessful attempt to strike out on his own, Tesla is approached by Westinghouse to work together, and build a practical AC motor. Edison is increasingly marginalized and J. P. Morgan merges Edison Electric into General Electric. The competing systems come to a head as they both put forward proposals to illuminate the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Samuel Insull presents the bid on behalf of Edison, and Westinghouse presents his competing bid. The abundantly lit fair is revealed. Westinghouse was successful. At the fair Westinghouse and Edison meet briefly. Edison discusses what it was like to achieve a great invention, and suggests that his next invention (motion pictures) could be so incredible that people might forget his name was ever associated with electricity.