In The Current War, brilliant inventors and arch-rivals Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) engage in increasing vicious tactics in the battle to determine whether direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC) technology will ultimately bring electricity to the world at large. The film is based on an especially riveting period in the history of science: the so- called “war of the currents.”
Produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, The Current War actually premiered in 2017 at the Toronto Film Festival, and the Weinstein Company signed on as distributors. But then Harvey Weinstein was credibly accused of sexual abuse and stepped down from the company. The Current War was shelved and eventually sold off when the company declared bankruptcy, ending up with 101 Studios. And now it will get a broad theatrical release, in a slightly different form. Per Gomez-Rejon, he has had added five additional scenes and trimmed ten minutes from the runtime.
In the late 19th century, most motors still ran on DC power, and attempts to create an AC version had failed. In 1882, while working as an electrical engineer with an Hungarian telephone company, Tesla conceived of a rotating magnetic field produced by two or more alternating currents out of step with each other—a sort of magnetic whirlwind that could be used to drive an electric motor. Within a few months he’d sketched out plans for all the components of a full power generating system.