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The Current War 2017 ****

The Current War has been on the shelf for two years now; specifically because it had been primed by Harvey Weinstein as an awards contender in 2017. It was unloved when screened at Toronto that year, but the negative buzz about the producer may have had something to do with that. The poster makes it look like The Prestige, but instead of competing magicians, it’s competing scientists, or rather inventors; Westinghouse, (Michael Shannon), Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Tesla (Nicolas Hoult). Unless you’re a master of physics and chemistry, some of the technical details escape you, but compensations are plentiful including two big performances from big actors, the elaborate and unfamiliar period details, and the pointed montages; there’s a great juxtaposition of the electrified world fair in Chicago and the first electrocution of a murderer in an electric chair. Tom Holland also has a decent role, as does Katherine Waterston; it’s a big prestige picture of the kind that used to be released for awards-season attention on Xmas day by Weinstein. Sold off as an asset to another company for a paltry $3 million, it’s unlikely to draw a massive crowd amongst the brainless summer blockbusters, but it’s an intelligent and interesting movie. For all the nay-sayers who complain that there’s no smart summer movies, The Current War is far from the stinker it’s history suggests. The film has been re-edited and new scenes added; this UK release is an attempt to gauge interest before a more (or less) expensive US release is mooted.

 

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