The Current War (M) - 102 minutes
A voyage of discovery, filled with intrigue and subterfuge.
That is the race against time and the breakthrough concerning electric light that is at the heart of The Current War, which begins in 1880.
On the one side is Thomas Alva Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch).
On the other is George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon).
Both are men of principle and both end up compromised in an escalating war of words between them, as instigated by the former.
In between is a foreign genius Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) – a Serbian immigrant – who, too, possesses a brilliant mind, but is hamstrung by financial distress.
It is quite a complex story that unfolds, but at the heart of it is pride and money.
These are driven, stubborn and competitive men – all of them. They possess brilliant minds. They think ahead of the curve – about what could be. In short, they have the power to change the world.
More specifically the focus is on electric light and the invention of the light bulb, with the end game being lighting up the World Fair in Chicago in 1893.
Writer Michael Mitnick and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) have woven the story as a cat and mouse game.
Edison is the aggressor, who will do all in his power to subvert Westinghouse from beating him to the prize.
Tesla at first works for him, but is cast aside when Edison takes a my way or the highway approach.
I liked the characterisations and the subversive nature of the scripting.
As Edison, Cumberbatch is cast as an intelligent, creative, ruthless showman – self-centred and arrogant – so we, the audience, have a love/hate relationship with him throughout.
Shannon is more measured and pragmatic as Westinghouse, while Hoult is perpetually on edge as futurist Tesla.
The roadblocks in the way of triumph are significant and questions of morality and integrity arise.
The Current War is a film you need to stick with to get the most out of.
Rated M, it scores a 7½ out of 10.