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Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult
Writing Credits:
Michael Mitnick

Titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse race to determine whose electrical system will power the modern world.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 3/31/2020

• Audio Commentary with Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
• Deleted Scenes
• Previews
• DVD Copy


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The Current War: Director's Cut [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 26, 2020)

Ever wonder how we wound up with the electrical system we have? Nah, me neither, but 2019’s The Current War: Director’s Cut tells us anyway.

Set in the 1880s, famed inventor Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) pushes for the adoption of “direct current” as the best way to power the nation. With plans to install this system in Manhattan, it looks like Edison will triumph yet again.

However, businessman George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) becomes a fly in the ointment, as along with inventor Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), they propose “alternating current” instead. This sets off a battle to determine which plan will succeed.

Should we view The Current War: Director’s Cut as the worst movie title of the year? Yeah, probably.

Let’s look at the basic element: The Current War. Given that the film looks at electricity, it becomes a clever moniker, but it makes potential viewers think the flick will be about the conflict in Afghanistan or a similar subject, not the science-based tale it delivers.

And what’s with that Director’s Cut part? That just seems confusing, as it implies the film ran theatrically under a prior version.

It didn’t. A prior edition showed at film festivals, but only Director’s Cut ever saw multiplexes in the US, so this little tease made no sense to prospective viewers.

Unsurprisingly, War found little audience theatrically, as it brought in a mere $6 million in the US and $12 million total worldwide. I can’t imagine that terrible title helped, and I remember that I wondered when the “non-Director’s Cut” of War ran.

As discussed in this disc’s supplements, filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon had a personal reason for the “Director’s Cut” title, as studio interference made him possessive. Still, the movie’s name had to confuse audiences.

Not that I suspect War would’ve been a blockbuster anyway, though you’d think a film with “name” actors like Cumberbatch, Shannon, Hoult and Tom Holland could scare up more than $12 million. Heck, the notion of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange paired together should be worth more than that!

Still, the subject matter doesn’t scream “huge hit”, even with that star power. Not that director Gomez-Rejon doesn’t work overtime to present War as a thriller.

While the subject matter implies a subdued, fairly intellectual look at the science and the politics, War pushes from the very start to bring us an urgent tale. Rather than a typical history lesson, we get an over-amped drama that feels like an odd match for the material at hand.

Perhaps Gomez-Rejon felt that this style would more likely attract an audience than a standard format, but given those anemic box office receipts, he appears to have been wrong. Again, this doesn’t mean a more traditional format would’ve earned superior ticket sales, but it couldn’t have done much worse.

And a less contrived take on the tale would likely deliver a stronger movie. War works so hard to convince us of its stunning drama that it inadvertently goes in the other direction and undercuts its potential.

War does everything it can to turn an intellectual tale into an emotional one, without much balance. I get that Gomez-Rejon wanted to give the story more of a dramatic feel and less of a dry one, but this approach feels misguided.

From an oft-moving camera to a pounding score to an emphasis on raw emotions, War just feels wrong most of the time. If Gomez-Rejon had balanced emotion with fact more evenly, the movie might’ve fared better, but as it stands, the style just doesn’t match the narrative well.

The actors seem fine, though Cumberbatch still can’t pull of a believable American accent. Still, he and the others feel acceptable in their underwritten parts.

If only they worked in service of a more compelling movie. A more even hand would’ve made War a stronger film instead of this overbaked contrivance.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Current War: Director’s Cut appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a satisfying presentation.

Overall sharpness felt positive. Though a few interiors felt slightly soft – partly due to some intentionally dim lighting – the movie usually appeared accurate and concise.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. The movie came with no source defects.

Despite its period setting, War came with a very modern palette, as it heavily pushes orange and teal. This choice seems odd, but the disc replicates the hues as intended.

Blacks looked deep and dense, and shadows felt smooth and clear, an important factor given all those aforementioned low-light shots. This became an appealing image.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it became considerably more active than expected for this sort of story. While I didn’t like that choice in terms of storytelling, the execution of the audio worked nicely.

The soundscape offered a broad affair, with lots of information from all around the room. Score became a prominent factor, and other elements like trains, storms and electrical crackles used the spectrum to create a vivid soundfield.

Audio quality fared well, with speech that consistently remained natural and concise. Music sounded full and bold as well.

As noted, effects played a bigger than anticipated role, and they seemed lively and accurate, with nice low-end. Whether War needed such an active soundtrack can be debated, but the end result satisfied.

A few extras appear, and we find an audio commentary from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. He offers a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, aspects of his “Director’s Cut”, cast and performances, sets and locations, editing, music, effects, and related topics.

Gomez-Rejon manages a measured and insightful view of his film. I like that he discusses his struggles to release the movie he wanted, and he digs into a good mix of other areas as well in this solid chat.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of five minutes, 25 seconds. We find “I’d Love to Meet Him” (2:11), “Are You a Preacher?” (1:06) and “This Is Costing Us a Fortune” (2:08).

All of these concentrate on the George Westinghouse character, and they add a little extra depth. Don’t expect a lot from them, though, as they bring some minor expansion and nothing more.

Note that although subtitles accompany the deleted scenes, the commentary does not offer a subtitle option.

The disc opens with ads for Dark Waters and 1917. No trailer for War appears here.

An attempt to tell the story of how electrical systems developed, The Current War: Director’s Cut pursues an oddly urgent format that just doesn’t work. A more sedate, intellectual approach would work better, so this flick becomes more annoying than intriguing. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and audio along with a few bonus features. If you want to learn about the subject matter, read a book and skip this overdone mess.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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