Review: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is as delightful as it is important. Heartwarming and vital.

Based off the true story of three women who challenged all of the social norms in the early 1960s by becoming vital to the success of America’s first manned space flight by NASA.

This is the sort of “Girl Power” I can get behind!

I love the concept of space travel. I love science fiction because to me, it is fantasy that is almost obtainable. Seeing and hearing news about NASA and space exploration, both old and new, has always fascinated and made me feel incredibly patriotic for humanity. It aggravates me to no end when we as a people lose sight of exploration as a goal…

That was my entry way into seeing Hidden Figures. What I came away with though was that same feeling only tenfold with what is a sassy, smart, determined and glossy true story about equality and self-esteem against monumental pessimism.
It is almost unbelievable as a story; that during the first manned space flight, America would have its first women working in NASA (or any sort of science field for that matter) not only that but its first African American women, and for them to show-up literally every man working there and change the face of science forever. All while segregation was still at large and men dominated all sections of science, yet these women made NASA’s initial steps in the Space Race successful!

The three leading ladies, Katherine, Mary and Dorothy are played by Taraji P. Henson (2010’s Karate Kid) Janelle Monáe (this year’s Oscar Winner Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (Snowpiercer) respectively, and are all fantastic in their roles. There’s a real sense of chemistry and comradery between these three from the moment we see them standing by their broken down car and their dressing-down of a white policeman who approaches them.
There’s a great sense of defiance but also kindness from these women. Especially Octavia Spencer’s Dorothy, who is at first left behind by the other two, but rises up with cool-headed aggression and most importantly, smarts. I loved these characters and their banter between each other.

Of course the seriousness of their struggle is not underplayed for comedy; the film might have laughs riddled about but it is still a dramatic piece. Taraji P. Henson’s interactions with Kevin Costner (who is superb as well, a pleasant surprise!) and virtually everyone else playing NASA’s physicists, is compelling… and gut-wrenching at times.
It is hard to imagine a time when America – or humans in general – trying to achieve something so incredible and world-changing, could still be hung up on concepts like “coloured people can’t drink from the same coffee as the rest of us”. It is appalling to comprehend and worse to witness, yet the film executes this brilliantly without becoming too heavy in the process but allowing us rewarding payoff afterwards.

The supporting cast was great too. From Costner to a disappearing Kirsten Dunst playing a vile woman (the disgusting behaviour isn’t exclusive to the men!) working as the boss to some of our leading ladies. Mahershala Ali from Moonlight features, while the film also found good use of the nerdy Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory… as a selfish, toady little prick.

The only, only thing that kinda bothered me in the film, was that it might have been a little over-ambitious. There’s a lot happening; we have three women all under intense emotional stress and pressure, but the film can only show so many stories in a good two hour length. The material we get is solid, but I felt there was something lacking from Mary’s story (Janelle Monáe) who becomes a NASA engineer who helps towards building the space module. While she does have her own battles to overcome, they are mostly education and law battles, more of her working within NASA and her engineering might have made the third act’s hurdles feel even more weighty.
But then, it is hard to critique true events in such a way!

It reminded me a little of Apollo 13 in its authenticity, and I really liked that (super Math jargon-heavy script!) Coupled with its equality-fueled message, stellar performances across the board and my love for space travel, I really enjoyed it. I’d highly recommend it for literally anyone, young and old!



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