The Current War: Director’s Cut Parent Guide
An illuminating look at the personalities of the men who pioneered the brave new world of electricity.
Parent Movie Review
Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an amazing inventor who has acquired some fame, especially with electricity and incandescent lightbulbs. Yet his genius has not netted him much in the way of fortune, so the ambitious man is forced to seek funds to make his dream of bringing light to the world a reality.
George Westinghouse (played by Michael Shannon) also dabbles in invention, but his brilliance is as a businessman. When Edison snubs his curiosity about the new creation, the wealthy man applies his own inspiration and hires his own engineers to adapt Edison’s achievements into an even broader vision.
With the knowledge they are playing with something that can change history forever, the two powerhouses run for the prize using different plans about the type of electricity they should use. Edison supports the safer, but very expensive DC (direct current) form, while Westinghouse advocates for the cheaper, though more dangerous AC (alternating current). And so the race begins…
Meanwhile, another competitor enters the field: Nikola Tesla (played by Nicholas Hoult). As an immigrant to America, the man has no financial backing for his ideas. While that doesn’t make his designs any less innovative, it does leave him at the mercy of investors – some of whom have more money than ethics.
If you come to this movie in the hope of learning more about the introduction of electricity, you may find yourself left in the dark. The script just assumes you know the history and that you have a pretty good understanding of technical details, and instead focuses its efforts on illuminating the human foibles of these now famous men.
Although the screenplay does a good job of dividing your sympathies between them, it does so by including scenes that connect these scientific heroes with vain ambition, the development of the electric chair, demonstrations of electrical danger by killing animals, engagements in smear campaigns and an attitude of racial prejudice. These depictions are all very sanitized, but reference some violent acts nonetheless.
Ironically this film, like the inventors it portrays, has also been mired down by the alleged faults of its original developer, The Weinstein Company. After a two-year hold-up, the movie is now being distributed by a different studio, and marketed as “Director’s Cut”. Despite all of that, The Current War is a beautifully shot and artistically handled study of the effects of greed, pride and taking offence. Even if that’s not what you might have expected, this biography-based tale has its own merits, especially as a discussion starter between parents and older children.
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Starring Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston, Benedict Cumberbatch. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release October 25, 2019. Updated April 6, 2020Watch the trailer for The Current War: Director’s Cut
The Current War: Director’s Cut
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Current War: Director’s Cut rated PG-13? The Current War: Director’s Cut is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some disturbing/violent images, and thematic elements
Violence: A soldier is confronted by the enemy at gun point: death by gunshot is implied. A horse is deliberately killed by electrical shock (the electrocution is implied, not shown) and its dead body is dragged away. The killing of anther animals by electricity is mentioned. Two people are also killed by electrocution: one by accident and the other as capital punishment (Neither deaths are portrayed on screen.) A lynching is briefly depicted, and the hanging body is tugged on to ensure the neck is broken (Some sound effected are included). A character with a blood-spattered face confesses to killing his wife. A man talks about getting a whipping form his father when he was a child. Competitive characters break promises, steal, make threats, behave unethically, engage in smearing campaigns with the press, and take advantage of other people’s ideas and patents. The script includes details about the invention of the electric chair as a means of administering capital punishment: details are discussed (but not shown) about a cruel attempt to use this devise for an execution. A person expresses their anger by damaging property.
Sexual Content: Married couples kiss in two scenes. A veiled sexual remark is made about a dancer.
Profanity: The script contains one moderate profanity, about eight mild profanities and about five uses of terms of deity as expletives. As well, a character uses racially demeaning language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Cigar smoking is depicted frequently. A doctor prescribes an ill patient laudanum (a drug containing opium that was commonly used historically). Alcohol is seen in a pub setting.
Page last updated April 6, 2020
The Current War: Director’s Cut Parents' Guide
This movie offers a glimpse into the possible motivations behind the inventions and actions of three famous men: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. What worthy attributes do these men possess? What are their faults? How do their shortcomings negatively impact their decisions? How were their morals and ethics affected by their circumstances? What might you learn from their examples?
Edison accuses Westinghouse and others for stealing his good ideas. Is his assertion correct? Is it possible to protect the ownership to something as big as the use of electricity? Why did many of Tesla’s theories never become reality? What more modern inventions are struggling with the same kind of copyright problems today?
The script includes a metaphorical discussion about fences. What do you think the fence represents? Why might one neighbor pay for a fence while the other enjoys it? What would happen if there were no fences?
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Do you wonder how accurate The Current War is in its depiction of history? Read more here to find out.
For more about the inventors in this movie, check out these links:
The release of The Current wars, produced by The Weinstein Company, was derailed because of the accusations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and the #Me Too movement. More details here.
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you’re interested in the history covered by the events of The Current War, you can read Jill Jonnes’ Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. Maury Klein’s The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America provides a similar history that goes back even further in time.
News About "The Current War: Director’s Cut"
The release of The Current wars, produced by The Weinstein Company, was derailed because of the accusations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and the #Me Too movement. More details here:
From the Studio Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, THE CURRENT WAR is the epic story of the cutthroat competition between the greatest inventors of the industrial age over whose electrical system would power the new century. Backed by J.P. Morgan, Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla, has seen fatal flaws in Edison’s direct current design. Igniting a war of currents, Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and written by playwright Michael Mitnick (Sex Lives of our Parents), THE CURRENT WAR also stars Katherine Waterston, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, Matthew Macfadyen, and Tuppence Middleton.
The most recent home video release of The Current War: Director’s Cut movie is March 31, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Other movies have featured the stories of geniuses. See:
Fictional stories about inventors aimed at young children include:
The leading men in The Current War have also played superheroes. Look for
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Nicholas Hoult as Beast in X-Men: First Class and Michael Shannon as General Zod in Man of Steel. Tom Holland, who appears in this movie too, is known for his role as Spider-Man.