FILM REVIEW | The Current War

When you've got names like Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult in your movie, you'd think you'd be on a winner.

However, sadly, The Current War just never lives up to the talent of its stars.

The film, which was originally set to be released in 2017 but was pushed back after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke and will now languish in Australian cinemas which are not allowed to open, fails to capture its audience despite a fascinating subject matter.

The Current War explores the the period in 1880s where famed light bulb inventor Thomas Edison (Cumberbatch) and railway air-brake inventor George Westinghouse (Shannon) attempt to introduce electric lighting around the United States.

Edison is spruiking direct current, the more expensive but (he says) safer option, while Westinghouse is rolling out alternating current.

Loitering around in the background is futurist Nikola Tesla (Hoult), who works with both men at different times.

Genius: Benedict Cumberbatch plays famed lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison in The Current War, rated M.

Genius: Benedict Cumberbatch plays famed lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison in The Current War, rated M.

Tesla, a Serbian immigrant with all the ideas in the world and an expensive sense of personal style, is a fascinating character but he barely gets a chance to shine in this film. Which is a true shame, because Hoult is always enjoyable and his performance in The Current War is no exception.

History and/or science nerds will enjoy the actual plot and the time period in which the film takes place, but a broader audience will struggle. It is not directed, or written, terribly well and the story suffers for it.

The climactic event of the film is the bid to secure the tender to light the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

What might've made a more interesting film is one centred on the fair, which not only brought tens of millions of visitors to the city (including some of the most influential figures in American history), it also took place when notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes was running his murder hotel. Plenty of good material for a film there.

One can't help but wonder what The Current War would have looked like under the direction of someone like David Fincher (The Social Network) or James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari) instead of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).

Rating: 5/10