The space race to put the first man into space, and then further place the first man on the moon, was a pivotal part of the cold war between America and the then USSR. As America lagged the USSR on the achievements to have man go beyond earth, three unrecognised and amazingly talented women helped to bring America out in front.
Hidden Figures tells the unbelievable true story of African American women Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), known as “human computers”, that worked at NASA as mathematicians calculating the first space flights.
Hidden Figures touches on not only the issues of segregation, very much alive in the settings of the film, but also the overarching issues women faced, and still face, for equality and talent in doing jobs just as good, if not better, then men.
Taraji P. Henson performance in a dramatic role is incredible, usually known for her colourful comedic approaches and bubbly attitude – her portrayal of a subdued and beaten down Johnson brings to the forefront her wonderful talents and creates a character that is sympathetic and easily lovable.
Octavia Spencer as Vaughn shows a great depth of character, reminiscent of her “The Help” character (that earned her an Oscar – a strong woman that is tired of living in a world where her achievements are not truly respected and the thin veil of tolerance she has, Spencer has a knack of playing a character with an almost “a-huh, sure” attitude – subtle and powerful at the same time.
Janelle Monáe portrayal as Jackson shows a layered approach to a balls out character, taking on each challenge with a two handed grasp, bringing audiences along on her journey to become a qualified engineer at NASA by changing the way schooling is completed at the institution she has to attend, which was a segregated school – her approach to the scenes with the pro segregation Judge is a standout part of the film.
The white privilege demonstrations in the film and the subtle everyday racism faced by the women is handled beautifully in the story and by Director Theodore Melfi, with scenes by Kevin Costner (Al Harrison), Kirsten Dunst (Vivian Mitchell) and Jim Parsons (Paul Stafford) showing how even the smallest amount of racisms has the power to destroy, and allowing audiences to view how turning a blind eye to what is happening within the world we live is just as damaging as directly and openly displaying racist attitudes towards people. This approach to film making is reminiscent of “The Imitation Game” Directed by Morten Tyldum and released in 2014, fans of this film will defiantly love Hidden Figures.
My only gripe with the film was the subtext elements of the family life of the women, which I felt was not necessarily required to drive the character development nor the storylines and would have much preferred to see more of the way the women overcame the challenges they faced in being recognised and creating the legacy they have all enjoyed.
A fantastic film and one that will give hope to any who watch it.