Special Presentations

The Current War

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

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Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) directs Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, and Katherine Waterston in this account of the race for marketable electricity in the United States between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.

The press conference for this film takes place on Sunday, September 10 at 2pm.

In 2017, it's nearly impossible to imagine a world without electric light. Yet the technology that illuminates our homes and projects images onto our screens dates back only the length of two lifetimes. The Current War, featuring brilliant performances from Oscar nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, brings to life the innovations and rivalries that would switch on the world.

Thomas Edison (Cumberbatch) knew he was a genius — and he made sure everyone else knew it, too. In 1879, he and his team conducted the first successful light bulb tests, declaring an end to night as people knew it. But the broad distribution of electricity posed a daunting challenge. Edison was convinced that direct current was the superior system, but entrepreneur George Westinghouse (Shannon, also appearing at this year's Festival in The Shape of Water), Edison's less flamboyant competitor, had a different idea.

We now know Westinghouse and Edison as household names, and their work as central to modern life, but the thrill of this film comes from watching them as men — brilliant minds and exceptional inventors, perhaps, but driven as much as anyone by pride, revenge, guile and maybe money, too. Both sought to bring electricity to the world. Only one of them could win the war to be first.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon makes an impressive leap in scale here from his much-admired independent film, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It's worth noting, though, that he apprenticed on films by Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. The fleet, eye-catching style he deploys here shows a sizzle and visual imagination that shouldn't be surprising. His skill, combined with the towering talent of Cumberbatch and Shannon, lends both heat and light to this sweeping epic.

CAMERON BAILEY

Part of the Our Digital Future film series, presented by SAP

Like today's digital innovators, pioneers of electricity competed to bring their inventions to the people. In a time when a handful of technology giants threaten to establish unchallenged dominance, The Current War is a reminder that competition breeds innovation, ultimately resulting in better products and services for everyone.

Explore how digital technology will continue to affect our daily lives now and in the future — and reimagine a better tomorrow at sap.com/our-digital-future.

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