Blu-ray: The Current War: Director’s Cut

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon | CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Tom Holland, Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston
RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $17.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $29.98
BONUSES: commentary, deleted scenes
SPECS: PG-13 | 107 min. | Historical drama | 2.39:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie   1/2 | Audio   1/2 | Video   1/2 | Overall   1/2

After a disastrous debut in a version the director was not happy with at the Toronto film Festival in 2017, the Oscar-targeted The Current War went AWOL. The Harvey Weinstein-approved version of the film was met with acrimony at the festival screening, as well as unspooling at other festivals.

After legal wrangling and some intervention from producer Martin Scorsese, the film finally resurfaced in October 2019, billed as The Current War: The Director’s Cut. Approved by Emmy-winning director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (TV’s American Horror Story, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), critics and audiences were essentially unresponsive.

Benedict Cumberbatch is Thomas Edison in The Current War.

Now, finally, comes an opportunity for this much-neglected film to find its deserved audience. It’s  impressive: a gorgeously designed film, boasting a terrific cast that tells a fascinating and complex story in an intelligent style. That The Current War: The Director’s Cut tends to be aloof at times should not be enough to deter viewers from seeing a true cinematic anomaly: a historical period piece centering on famous people who are usually not upstanding role models or the most likable in the world.

The focus is on the epic battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over control of America’s power. Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game) is clearly a genius and master at marketing, but his serious social issues get in the way of dealing with other people and financing.  He has harvested the notion that the country is best off using his invention of direct current.

His arch-rival, George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon, 99 Homes) has thrown all of his weight into alternating current after he’s managed to make an impact promoting natural gas as a prime power source for the country. Meanwhile, Serbian science wizard Nikolai Tesla (Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road), angered by Edison not keeping a financial promise, leaves to work for Westinghouse, while Edison’s assistant (Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Far from Home) begins to play a bigger role at Edison’s company.

There’s a curiosity factor among moviegoers who missed the once-high profile title when it was finally issued in theaters late last year. But it’s tough to predict if there’s enough interest to propel The Current War: The Director’s Cut into bona fide sleeper hit territory it deserves.

Buy or Rent The Current War

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.