The Current War (2017)
Story: The late 1880s. Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) compete for the power to supply sustainable electricity system to the masses. While Edison is the main inventor behind the system, promoting the direct current model, his rival Westinghouse had his own ideas about the system, vouching for the alternating current model, even though it was deemed dangerous at that time.
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Leads: Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon
Analysis: (1) Needless to say, the story is going to be very interesting since it is Edison and Westinghouse battling on the American political arena for the right to promote and sell the so-called “miracle” invention. Edison was the man behind mass electricity usage, but it was Westinghouse who obtained the right to Tesla’s alternating current electricity distribution system, which, also, slowly paved its way to homes in the US. In this film, we would expect to see the first concerns regarding the dangers of using electricity in daily life, and the use of electric currents to execute criminals. Moreover, seemingly, there will be some love/family stories shown, as both Mary Edison (Tuppence Middleton) and Marguerite Westinghouse (Katherine Waterson) have prominent roles in the film. Moreover, the figuring of Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) himself will add an extra bonus.
(2) It is not only the story which would be fascinating: the film involves super talented actors as the leads. Benedict Cumberbatch (“Twelve Years a Slave” (2013), “The Imitation Game” (2014)) will be great as Edison, because he can play cunning, business-absorbed people, but could also show his softer side when needed. Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road” (2008), “Nocturnal Animals” (2016)) will also be great in his role. His character will probably have to bear a lot of criticism in this story, but, the actor can also portray inner strength and openness to others with ease, while remaining a touch enigmatic throughout. It will be entertaining to see how these two actors interact and compete against each another on-screen. In Nolan’s “The Prestige” (2006), which incidentally also featured electricity experiments, the two stage performers, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, had to devise methods to outshine each other in their magic tricks, and the result was nothing short of brilliant. As “The Current War” stands now, I would definitely expect some Academy Awards nominations for either Cumberbatch or Shannon.
Conclusion: A fascinating story which just needs to be told, as it involves both an invention competition and love stories? Perfect casting of very talented actors as world-known figures? Great visuals of the late 1880s life? All points to some masterpiece in the making.
Release date: 22 December 2017 (US)
Predicted score: 9/10
The Mountain Between Us (2017)
Story: Based on the novel by Charles Martin, “The Mountain between Us” tells of Alex Martin and Dr. Ben Bass (Ashley Knox and Dr. Ben Payne in the novel), a journalist and a surgeon who decide to take an uncharted flight when they cannot get to their destination on time using a commercial airliner. However, their flight is involved in a crash. Although they two survive with injuries, they are stranded in the middle of High Uintas Wilderness, and are forced to combat harsh weather conditions, scarcity of food and other unforeseen dangers to stay alive.
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Leads: Idris Elba and Kate Winslet
Analysis: (1) In the past years, we have had films on near-plane crashes, such as “Flight” (2012) and “Sully” (2016), as well as films on surviving accidents in harsh conditions, such as “127 hours” (2010) and “The Revenant” (2015). It seems that here these two themes merge, and “The Mountain Between Us” promises to be a gripping and fascinating film on a man and a woman’s survival in extreme conditions. The film’s story is also not as fantastical as one may assume. In fact, there have been real, documented cases of such nature before. For example, in 1972, a plane (Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571) carrying 45 people crashed in the Andes, and the surviving 27 people had to confront freezing temperatures at over 3.600 metres altitude, starvation and, even, an avalanche, and all this knowing that the search for them had been abandoned. In the end, only 16 people were rescued alive, and only after two months after the crash.
(2) The cast is interesting here. Kate Winslet has already mentioned that her role in “Titanic” (1997) would help her in this film, but the actress also “experienced” extreme conditions, and was in “a survival mode” in Soderbergh’s film “Contagion” (2011). Therefore, she will be right at home racing time and making sacrifices here. Even though Michael Fassbender was the original cast for Dr. Bass, Idris Elba should be great here too. Elba was previously cast in such films as “Pacific Rim” (2013) and “Thor: The Dark World” (2013), so he knows all about action. Moreover, he also provided voices for light animations, and, so, would be great as the one holding that torch of hope if dark times come in the movie. It is also nice to have Hany Abu-Assad as a director on board here, because, his films were actually nominated for the Academy Awards twice: “Paradise Now” (2005) in 2006, and “Omar” (2013) in 2014.
Conclusion: Provided that the film manages to keep things as realistic as possible (the trailer to this film has some problems with realism), as well as provide sufficient intrigue and guessing until the very end, this could be a very good film. This is because the film has both strong cast and a story which may as well have been true. “The Mountain Between Us” should be a “must-see” for anyone who is into “survival mode” films or who just enjoy drama with some top-notch cast.
Release date: 06 October 2017 (US)
Predicted score: 8/10
Story: This film is marketed as a “sequel” to “Flatliners” (1990), starring Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts and William Baldwin, but the trailer to this looks more like a remake, and even borrows certain lines from the original movie. This story is about a group of medical students who attempt to find what lies beyond death by stopping their hearts and having near-death experience. “What happens to us after we die? The only way to find out is to see for ourselves”, they say. Although the students are soon addicted to their dangerous play with death, they discover quickly that their experiments set off some sinister things to take place.
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Leads: Elliot* Page, Nina Dobrev and James Norton
Analysis: Arguably, there are two “attractions” in this movie: the story and Elliot* Page. (1) The story itself is very interesting: it deals with death, the life after death and with the supernatural. “The Discovery”, a film which premiered at Sundance Film Festival this year, also dealt with a similar topic, but, there, the existence of an after-life has already been proven, and people were committing mass suicide “to get to the other side”. So, is this sequel to “Flatliners” (1990) really better than the original movie and has this intelligent approach? Or does it just provide momentary thrills and can be easily forgotten the next day? It is hard to say, but, by the looks of the trailer, it may be the latter.
(2) It is no surprise to see Elliot* Page here, because he was previously cast in some very enigmatically-dark films, such as “Hard Candy” (2006) and “Inception” (2010), and, undoubtedly, will make sure that this film is also taken as seriously.
Conclusion: Unfortunately, it will take this film a lot of originality, amazing twists and inner intelligence to come out as something special. The fact that the director here is the one behind original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2009) can either be a blessing or a curse. The film may attract fans of such films as “Twilight” (2008) and “The Hunger Games” (2012), and, of course, those following Elliot* Page, but it remains to be seen whether it could really equal some of the most thought-provoking films of the last few years.
Release date: 29 September 2017 (US)
Predicted score: 6/10
What are other movies to keep an eye on? Well, there is a great animation coming out “Coco” (2017) about a boy’s journey to the Land of the Dead. It should be great because there is so much fascinating Latin American folklore in it – the film is inspired by the infamous Dia de Muertos, and the trailer has lots of humour. Further afield, in 2018, Steve McQueen (“Shame“ (2011), “Twelve Years a Slave” (2013)) will present “Widows” (2018), a fast-paced thriller (a remake of a 1980s TV series?) about women whose husbands were killed in a botched heist attempt. Apart from the fab director, the cast is also strong here as it has Viola Davis (“The Help” (2011)), Colin Farrell (“The Lobster” (2015)), Liam Neeson (“Silence” (2016)) and Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out” (2017)) involved. I only hope it will not mirror similarly-themed “Ocean’s Eight” (2018). And, then, there is Lars Von Trier’s “The House that Jack Built” (2018) about a serial killer. Few things are known about this one yet, but it is a dark film from Lars Von Trier (“Melancholia” (2011)) and it has Uma Thurman in it, so it looks promising.
*Previously (pre-01/12/2020) – Ellen Page