Tesla movie poster
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Tesla
Tesla movie poster

Tesla Movie Review

From writer/director Michael Almereyda comes Tesla, an extremely dull depiction of the life of Nikola Tesla and his rivalry with fellow inventor Thomas Edison. Starring Ethan Hawke, this dry, emotionless film should be avoided at all costs. 

As lifeless as it is, Tesla isn’t without its creative attempts. Most notably, Almereyda interlaces the story with narrator-driven segments that have his romantic partner (played by Eve Hewson, who is perhaps the only compelling piece of this languid picture) connecting the dots between the various chapters of Tesla’s life. She even stops to show how many Google results are returned when searching his name. On a MacBook of course. 

Inventive, yes. Beneficial? No. 

While this narrative technique may have looked good on paper, it unfortunately has the same effect narration has on so many movies: it tells, but doesn’t show. It tells, but doesn’t let us feel. 

And, arguably, Almereyda skips over some of the best material to accommodate this tired technique. After leaving Edison’s team, Tesla winds up doing manual labor for a year before getting his big break; maybe a depiction of this time period would have helped us get into the mind of this visionary a bat more. The film also skips over one major moment of triumph—proving the value of alternating currents—altogether (but depicts the moments leading up to it), an odd choice indeed. 

Regardless of what Almereyda ended up putting in his film, Tesla is just flat out boring. Hawke and the rest of the cast deliver their lines with an enthusiasm that can best be described at tepid. Tesla is an emotionally flat experience that seems to challenge the audience to get through the whole thing without falling asleep. 

Nikola Tesla was a fascinating man; he deserves a fascinating movie. Tesla is not that movie. 

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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