[Sidenote: I saw this before the Oscars]
Based on the remarkably untold true story of the black women behind some of the most important calculations in NASA’s space race, Hidden Figures is a brilliantly entertaining and inspiring film that is a great tribute to the work and the women whose story it depicts.
The film follows three African-American women working in NASA – Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) – as they fight to advance through the organisation, and to be accepted, credited and listened to. They broke new ground, breaking down divides between gender and race, and destroying conceptions of what they could and couldn’t do (for example, becoming a female engineer, authoring calculations to send John Glenn into space, or teaching themselves programming to become the most knowledgeable in the organisation).
It is an incredibly well made film, with its ensemble being one of its biggest assets. Everyone is on top form, with Henson standing out as a type of character that departs from what we might expect from her. Spencer is, as usual, on great form, and Monae holds her own brilliantly. Each character is distinct and fully formed, and really holds your attention. The rest of the sprawling ensemble, away from the primary trio, is strong too, with the likes of Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst on great form.
Great directing, writing and a strong sense of pace and story really make this an involving ride. It keeps your attention and flits perfectly between the comic moments and the weightier, more serious scenes.
It’s brilliant to see these women appreciated and their story told (and extremely frustrating that it hasn’t been very publicly known at all). It also makes you question where we might be now, if women and minorities hadn’t been treated in such a way and able to use and pursue their talents without oppression and discrimination. It’s also rare to find a film that revolves around African-American women (or women in general for that matter), and is a brilliantly fresh entry into the cinema.
A brilliantly told tale that will entertain all. It will make you enraged, joyous and inspired, and it one of the most enjoyable films of the past year.