HIDDEN FIGURES

Directed by:- Theodore Melfi

Produced by:- Peter Chernin, Donna Gigliotti, Theodore Melfi, Jeno Topping, Pharrell Williams

Starring:- Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons

Runtime:- 127 minutes (2hrs 7mins)

Meet the Women you don’t know behind the mission you do

There’s the old adage that behind every great man is a woman. Their contributions to mankind are never spoken about in great lengths and they still endure through battles of inequality and sexism. Imagine going through all of this as a black Woman in a 1960s America that was openly prejudicial towards them and refused to acknowledge their contributions to society. The most influential people would never let this break them down and it also presents them with the goal of challenging the status quo to change mindsets. We all know about prominent figures like Rosa Parks, Serena Williams, Oprah Winfrey and the late and great Maya Angelou, but there are some icons that are criminally overlooked. One of the many reasons I love a watching a good biopic is that they become an entertaining avenue to remind us about the past and shed light on unsung heroes and how they changed the world. The film in question today focuses on three black American Women whose formulae changed the course of history.

Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae, left), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) celebrate.

Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae, left), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) celebrate.

Based on true events and a non-fiction book of the same name, Hidden Figures tells the incredible story of three extremely intelligent African-American Women Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who worked at NASA in the 1960s. Our ladies first start out in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, which is a subdivision of NASA (NACA as it was called then). Despite the challenges they face throughout their everyday lives as African –American women, their talents get noticed by the big wigs in NASA and their intellect and contributions become a vital component to one of America’s greatest operations: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and brought the world together. The movie also acts as a great opportunity to show the audience all the gender and race lines our trio had to cross to inspire future generations of black people and Women.

Katherine G. Johnson solves a problem that got the team stumped.

Katherine G. Johnson solves a problem that got the team stumped.

Hidden Figures is directed by Theodore Melfi and stars Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, Academy Award nominee Taraji P.Henson and Janelle Monae as the aforementioned trio. They are all supported with a cast that contains Academy Award winner Kevin Costner, Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons and Kristen Dunst does this feel good movie have the right calculations to captivate and inspire its audience?

Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), stands out amid her team of fellow mathematicians that helped send into orbit John Glenn.

Katherine G. Johnson  stands out amongst a team of fellow mathematicians must send John Glenn into Orbit.

PROS

  • One of the things you will immediately notice going into this movie is its strong sense of style. Hidden Figures works as a movie because it is brought to fruition through its beautiful visuals captured by Melfi and his cinematographer Mandy Walker (Australia, Jane Got a Gun). The movie flawlessly mixes footage from the 1960s, with convincing CGI, some amazing costume designs that scream the 60s
  • Not only is the movie an experience that is visually arresting but it is also one that is pleasing for the ears as the movie cleverly combines classic tunes like Ray Charles “Sticks and Stones” and a modern soundtrack that contains catchy songs like Runnin by Pharrell or “Call your Wives”, a song that acts as a collaborative effort between Hans Zimmer, Pharell & Benjamin Wallfisch. Not only do they move the story forward in a satisfying manner, they also match the popular styles and trends of that time period. This approach to its music also subconsciously draws links between the past and the present.
  • The films three lead do a great job and brilliantly introduces their personalities and makes them extremely likable. We have singer Janelle Monae’s who is growing into a great actor as Mary Jackson, a wise cracking sassy lady with impeccable comedic timing. Taraji P.Henson has once again shows that in an industry that has tried to typecast her, she is an extremely versatile actress. She put in such a strong performance as the clever and respectable optimist Katherine G. Johnson, a woman with an affinity for mathematics that I actually forgot that she has actually been making rounds on TV as Empire’s Cookie Lyon. Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer also puts in a great shift as Dorothy Vaughn, a no-nonsense woman that doesn’t take rubbish from anyone.
  • The movie’s best moments are when our three leads simply bounce of each other and establish a great rapport as their dialogue provides for some of the films best and funniest lines. One thing I appreciate what the movie did was respecting the historical facts and giving our leads their own story arcs that challenge them in a different way. The actresses natural and relatable performances make these arcs more satisfying to watch as it gives them room to grow as people and inspire other people even though they own arcs don’t get equal screen time.
  • The films supporting actors and actresses give solid performances across the board. Leading man of the 90s Kevin Costner turn as NASA Space Task Group director, Al Harrison is a memorable one. He proves that he is the perfect fit for a objective driven leader who is tough but fair. Other notable co-stars include Jim Parsons and Kristen Dunst who delivers layered performances as NASA Space Task Group’s head engineer Paul Stafford and Dorothy’s supervisor Vivian Mitchell. Both characters challenge two of our leads over the course of the film but also avoid the danger of being a cartoonish villain as they both go through personal journeys of their own over the course of the film and get a resolve that is satisfying for our lead actresses. Mahershala Ali continues his fantastic year with another solid performance as Jim Johnson, a soldier who is smitten for Katherine.
  • The way the movie handles the topics of racism and sexism is actually refreshing. The film doesn’t demonize white people and in certain cases black men by making their disregard for African Americans and black women one that is filled with malice or violence. They make it passive, as they have little to no reason to ponder on or recognize the segregated way of life, unless they are confronted about it. This theme presents the movie with two of its best scenes one that has Janelle Monae’s character give a heartfelt speech to a white judge and Taraji’s character bursting out in rage explaining the trials and tribulations she has to endure every day as a black woman.
Dorothy Vaughn leads her ladies to the computer room.

Dorothy Vaughn leads her ladies to the computer room.

CONS

  • The Romantic subplot involving Jim and Katherine is somewhat under-developed despite how charming their chemistry is. In the grand scheme of things, the movie wouldn’t have lost any marks if it didn’t have a small love story. It feels like a series of sequences that are obligatory and filler as they need to check off a historical check book and pad out the films duration. In the end, it doesn’t harm the film.
  • The film is at its best when our three leads interact with each other and support each other. Although many other wouldn’t mind as much, I Personally feel that the movie would have been a lot better if it provided more opportunity for our leads to communicate with each other.
Janelle Monáe puts in a good performance as Mary Jackson.

Janelle Monáe puts in a good performance as Mary Jackson.

Hidden Figures is a tried-and-true feel good movie that is expertly executed thanks to a winning formula of a great cast, music, historically appropriate aesthetics and themes that resonate and inspire its audience. Definitely a biopic you should see this year.

RATING:- WORTH A WATCH

Olisa Nwokedi
About The Author
- Olisa is an Aberystwyth University law graduate who was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 2016. He enjoys playing and watching rugby, writing , watching movies, playing video-games and Shark wrestling.......... that last part was fiction.