Plot – The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program – Hidden Figures.
Director – Theodore Melfi
Released – 2016
Recently Hollywood has been trying to make up for its past discretions by giving a voice to communities that have long been overlooked by mainstream studios, with films like 12 Years a Slave and Detroit providing just a glimpse into the forgotten or wilfully ignored side of history. With Hidden Figures hoping to the do the same for the black women working in the Apollo era space race. And mostly, it succeeds.
I for one didn’t know about the contribution these impressive women made to the space race until I saw this movie, even the otherwise excellent Apollo 13, reduces the woman’s role in the mission, whitewashing the story in the process. This is an oversight that Hidden Figures corrected. Telling the story of NASA mathematicians Katherine G. Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan working at NASA in 1961, Virginia. Never flinching from the racial and sexual discrimination that took place, while also highlighting the brains, strength and determination these inspirational women shared.
Unlike 12 Years a Slave and Detroit, there’s a level of humour injected into the plot, highlighting the absurdities that these women had to deal with while working at NASA, such as the 20 minute run Katherine Johnson (Henderson) had to do every time she needed the toilet because of segregation. There’s also all the hoops that Vaughan (Spencer) had to jump through just to become a supervisor, never letting it get her down and showing dignity throughout, it’s no wonder an Academy Award nomination followed. I should also mention the great supporting cast, with the likes of Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali each helping to turn paper-thin roles into fleshed-out characters.
Hidden Figures isn’t perfect, by any means. The plotting is fairly predictable and some later situations feel somewhat far-fetched, however, the film’s charm, strong acting and fast pace more than make up for these imperfections and helps to shine a light on an aspect of American history that had been overlooked for far too long.
If you liked – Moonlight, Green Book, The Help