Hidden Figures

Last year’s Oscars were accused of being an underrepresentation of minority actors and films. This accusation did have validity, 2016 was the whitest of white of a very white male award season, so it is refreshing to see there are more films with minority groups involved receiving the recognition they deserve. One such film cleverly combines the civil rights plight of African Americans in the 1950’s and 60s as well as the bias against women working in the sciences, Hidden Figures.

 

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The book that told the story of Hidden Figures first, by Margot Lee Shetterly

Based on the build up to the Mercury 7 space launch in 1961, Hidden Figures follows the careers of three women, Katherine Goble/Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn, African-American women working as computers (someone who computes the maths) for NASA. The film then goes on to tell how they fought a segregated system to become vital to NASA and trailblazers of the Civil Rights movement.

 

The film is well made, it is well shot, and edited, maybe a little formulaically, and the story serves its function. I would say that it is a little busy, but that is only because it has to deal with three people, their individual struggle, the large civil rights issues and the launch of the spaceship. Similarly, after a bit of research, it turns out that is not accurate. There has clearly been some rejigging of events for a better story, and though this is probably not a good thing to do, it is to fit a theme and tone. Also one does have to wonder what films based on real events are 100% historically accurate?

 

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Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) inspect the astronauts

But that is not the real draw of the film. Hidden Figures stars a great cast; Taraji P. Henson, perhaps best known as Cookie from TVs Empire, is a strong willed smart and engaging lead as Katherine Johnson, in fact, she takes her supervisor, here played by Big Bang theories Jim Parsons to task over NASA Protocole.

 

 

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Katherine Johnson puts her brain to work

Octavia Spencer is wonderful as Dorothy Vaughn, and Janelle Monae makes an easy transition from singer to actor as Mary Jackson. The supporting cast is also great and full of big names, like Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali, from Netflix’s Luke Cage and Moonlight. Though the script and plot is a little week, the fantastic cast make it entertaining and humorous especially in the more character-driven scenes.

 

I think this movie is the perfect antidote to split nations. It is a film about working together to achieve something great. But it is also about fighting a system, all the struggles faced by these three characters are explained with “it’s just the way it is”, though the characters are not content with that system and try to change it for the better.

It is not historically accurate, and it is not telling audiences anything new, apart from the specific story of Johnson, Jackson and Vaughn. But it tells the story well, and with fantastic performances, it is a good time, so I would recommend it, though it does sacrifice accuracy for sentimentality.

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