This movie is focused on the interaction among Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla in the competition to create and build out America’s…and the world’s…electrical infrastructure. It has gotten mixed and generally not-very-enthusiastic reviews; I thought it was well-done and definitely worth seeing. Visually, it is striking and sometimes even beautiful, thus worth seeing on the big screen.
The movie gets the outline of the history right; also, I think, the essence of the characters. Edison is a brilliant inventor and self-promoter who is committed to his DC-based distribution system and will do some more-than-questionable things to get it universally adopted. Westinghouse, who had invented the railroad air brake (among other things) and already built a large company, sees the value of alternating current, which can be stepped up and down in voltage via transformers and hence can be economically transmitted over long distances. Tesla, a Serbian immigrant and brilliant inventor, provides the missing link in the form of a practical motor that can run on AC power. The relationships of Edison and Westinghouse with their respective wives are highlighted, and the future utility mogul Samuel Insull appears as Edison’s young secretary.
I was happy to see the movie’s positive portrayal of Westinghouse, a great man who has tended to be overshadowed by the more-glamorous figures of Edison and Tesla. (The legions of Tesla fans may be unhappy that Tesla did not get a more central role in the film.)
If this movie sounds interesting to you, better see it soon; I don’t think it’s going to be in the theaters for very long.