Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is on the verge of creating the direct current and revolutionising how America is powered. However, George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) and his scientist, Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) have what they believe to be a superior invention - the alternating, high-wattage current. This sparks off a battle for supremacy in one of the world's first corporate feuds...
For a movie that's supposed to be about invention, progress and the dawn of the future, 'The Current War' is absolutely none of these things. While the direction by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is active, and he flings the camera around the screen to try and create a sense of movement, there's nothing in 'The Current War' that can (sigh) electrify a flat script.
It's not for lack of trying, however. Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult all are firing as hard as they can, trying to invigorate the pallid dialogue and stuffy manners with a sense of vitality. Shannon, in particular, does his level-best to make an utter tyrant like George Westinghouse into a likeable sort, but it all fails miserably by the second act. In fact, what 'The Current War' undoubtedly suffers from is not the execution of the story, but the story itself.
What's made abundantly clear throughout the movie is that Westinghouse, Edison and Tesla were all pretty terrible people, and that terrible people are often responsible for the technological advancement of the world. It's trying to tie itself in with this idea, but the fact that the script keeps consistently reminding us of how shitty they are means that we can't really be blamed for not caring about what happens to them.
Ultimately, where 'The Current War' ends up with is a story that doesn't have any reason for existing. The production design, the very oppressive score by Hauschka, the cinematography, even the acting - it's all there, and it's doing what it can, but again, why are you supposed to care about egomaniacs? Not only that, when you consider the lineage of 'The Current War' and its ties to Harvey Weinstein, you begin to wonder why the fallen movie mogul was so taken by it in the first place.
While it all looks so expensive and so ornately made, there isn't enough of a reason to fork out money for 'The Current War' when you can simply watch something like 'The Prestige' and get a far better movie that covers the cliff notes of what 'The Current War' explores.