Benedict Cumberbatch looks to get the sparks flying in this historical portrait of America’s greatest inventor.
The last thing cinema needs right now is another movie about a genius whose brilliance is expressed through being a stubborn jerk. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon manages however to get some great milage by taking such a setup and approaching it through a deconstructed lens. The brilliant jerk in question this time is none other than Thomas Edison. On the verge of bringing electricity to Manhattan with his radical new technology, Edison’s plans are upended by charismatic businessman George Westinghouse who believes he and his partner, Nikolai Tesla, have a far superior idea for how to rapidly electrify America.
Edison, that brilliant inventor and occasional thief, is played by an actor who has made almost an entire career playing brilliant jerks. It’s straight typecasting, but it also works. Cumberbatch brings an amusing, detached air to Edison, playing the genius as an overly competitive, short-tempered thinker who wants to slap his name on everything. An informative history lesson which may not break new ground, but finds inventive ways to make the old seem new. (Research Chris Coetsee)