Film & TV

Film Review: Hidden Figures

The true story of three female mathematicians in 1961 who face racism and misogyny when they join the team trying to put an American into space.

The best thing about movie biographies is the broad stories told. Audiences would never know the behind the scenes work done by unsung heroes of yesteryear. Hidden Figures tells an engaging tale about which little is known. Based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, the factual basis makes it all the more interesting. Although a fictional story can transport you to another world, real-life ones transport you to the same world in a different time. Hidden Figures’ timeless messages ring true in an era where true equality is still needed.

In 1961, Katherine (Taraji P. Hensen), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) and Mary (Janelle Monae) are African American mathematicians working at a government computer division. Recruited by the head of the American Space Task Group, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), the trio look forward to new challenges. They soon discover bigotry is still rife no matter where they work. Getting on with the task of helping send Astronauts into space, their skills are desperately needed no matter the bias they constantly face.

Hidden Figures is an interesting historical document told well. Whilst it simplifies complex situations, it provides a broad overview of the film’s setting. The breathtakingly awful racism the ladies endured and the ridiculous ways they had to overcome it seem unfathomable today. This underlining issue successfully blends into the script’s main theme of breaking down barriers to achieve great things. The race against time to send American astronauts into space is made more exciting under Theodore Melfi’s astute direction.

Hidden Figures works due to the high quality performances. Hensen makes for a solid lead with her dignified portrayal embodying her character’s strength against adversity. Her iron will makes it easy to follow her personal and professional dramas. Her friendships with Dorothy and Mary are grounded in believability with Costner a dependable anchor who binds the narrative. Although clichés abound, Hidden Figures makes good use of its setting and the music aiding rather than subtracting from the central story.

In terms of style, Hidden Figures may not be ground-breaking as a movie biography. Its success lies in telling its tale with passion and sensitivity. It does so very well and serves as a reminder that equality for all is worth fighting for no matter how large an obstacle may be.

Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Twitter: @PatrickMoore14

Rating out of 10:  7

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