Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War is a well performed and visually pleasing historical drama. The film engages viewers throughout, building tension in an admirable way.
In the late 19th century, the US is still lit by fire. Inventor Thomas Edison is certain his direct current system is the way to provide electric light to America. Entrepreneur George Westinghouse and his alternate current system compete with Edison to light up the country…
Focusing on the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in the late 19th century and the race to connect the US to electricity, The Current War takes place at a very exciting moment in history. Screenwriter Michael Mitnick’s narrative chooses to view the race through the rivalry of these two men, with some focus on other key players.
Film is a historical drama, focusing on key moments in a thirteen-year span. There are some moments of levity, but for the most part The Current War is a serious affair. The film is suitably earnest, although some later moments are not quite as tense as director may have hoped for. The narrative tells us something about these two characters, even if it is not immediately clear. Initially posits the two protagonists as distinct entities; the inventor who wants to do good against the entrepreneur who wants to make money. Predictably, the film is not quite as simple as this, and subverts initial expectations.
Gomez-Rejon shows some visual flair with his direction. Panning and tracking shots are frequent, perhaps hoping to replicate frenetic setting. The art direction and costumes are wonderful. There is a rich use of colour, and some striking contrasts which are most appealing. Performances solid throughout. Michael Shannon and Benedict Cumberbatch are great as the protagonists. Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Macfadyen stand out in supporting roles. Katherine Waterston is also good in a minor role.
The Current War should prove rewarding for those with a rudimentary knowledge of the events. Those with more expertise should still find the film most enjoyable.
Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina is an interesting experiment, but not an entirely successful one. The film has some strong attributes, but not enough to make it a truly great adaptation of a literary classic.
Anna Karenina is a married aristocrat who travels to Moscow in order to help her adulterous brother to try to repair his marriage. Meanwhile, Levin is determined to propose to the beautiful young Kitty, although she has eyes for Count Vronsky. When Anna and Vronsky meet, however, it is the start of a tumultuous affair…
What makes Joe Wright’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina different to previous versions is the decision to stage it in a theatre. In is not performed as a play, as the camera is fluid. Rather, the majority of the action takes place in an actual theatre, on stage and backstage, with areas designed to look like particular locations. The staging makes it difficult to get fully involved or emotionally invested, however. It takes a siginificant amount of time to get used to the set up and to stop noticing the theatrics.
The staging perhaps would have worked better as an opening rather than a device to maintain throughout. There are some nice touches, but the opening sequence is a little too disorientating. The film’s downfall is that it does not fully engage viewers. The backstage scenes in particular pulls the audience out of the action. The outside scenes are a stark contrast from the interior staging. But perhaps Wright wished to make a noticeable divergence between the country and the city.
The costuming is excellent in Anna Karenina. The score, likewise, feels a good fit for the film. Wright’s film boasts a great cast and some good performances from the supporting players. Jude Law elicits sympathy as Alexei Karenin, while Matthew Macfadyen is well cast as Oblonsky. Keira Knightley is less impressive, although her performance is by no means awful.
Anna Karenina feels a little overlong in the final third, but is wonderful to look at. Wright’s decision to stage the film in this way is certainly bold, although a tragedy such as Tolstoy’s story should evoke a more emotional response.