Thomas Edison, already a famous inventor, had created and patented the lightbulb. The White House and others alike were offering him millions of dollars to invent war weapons and even the electric chair, but Edison swore he would never use his invention to kill people.
Meanwhile, Edison was forming a theory for how to illuminate the country using his lightbulbs. His singular current theory worked for compact cities, but his electricity couldn’t sustain rural, spread-out farm towns. So George Westinghouse, an industrialist, decided to take Edison’s base theory and create an alternating current route that best illuminated rural towns.
Edison and Westinghouse both wanted their electric companies to control the country, but the winner would be determined by a board of panelists who would choose one of the two companies to illuminate the World Chicago Fair. Thus began the Current War.
After Edison lost his wife and Westinghouse gained traffic, Edison began taking sneaky jabs at Westinghouse’s alternating current theory, claiming that his live wires were dangerous, but were perfect for killing people via the electric chair. Westinghouse then publicized some of Edison’s blackmail letters that were meant for framing Westinghouse.
Their quarreling continues, keeping the audience glued to their drama, but a no-name inventor arises and changes both companies’ destinies.
History books tend to quote straight, pretty facts, leaving out the human faults of infamous, foundational American characters, but The Current War accurately displays the good, the bad, and the ugly battle that brought electricity to American civilization.
While the history is raw and fascinating, the drama propelled human and animal testing for Edison and Westinghouse’s electric currents. Flashback war violence, hangings, intense language, and racial slurs are included throughout the film too, making this film Not Dove-approved.
Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse race to bring electricity to America, but will their low blows toward one another ruin our history book definition of foundational inventors?