Review Hidden Figures
Based on the untold true story, Theodore Melfi’s 2016’s biographical drama Hidden Figures follows the journey of three highly intelligent female African American women as they become instrumental to the NASA space movement in the late sixties.
Taraji P. Henson steals the show as Katherine Johnson who is the mathematical brains behind sending John Glen into orbit as she works as a “computer” in the segregated division along with her two colleges, engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and her unofficial supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer).
The film begins with the three females breaking down on the side of the road on their way to work at NASA. Whilst attending to the car a white policeman questions their identity before apologising and escorting the three to work after initially harassing the young ladies due to their gender and ethnicity. This is a re-occurring theme throughout the film as it sheds light on not only the battles African American females faced, but also females as employees within the workplace dominated by white men.
Following the increasing threats of the Soviet Space Program, Katherine is hired by the Space Task Group, directed by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to accelerate America into space, due to her impressive knowledge of analytic geometry. Katherine Johnson is met by hostility from her white colleagues with Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson playing Paul Stafford, head engineer of the Task Group. Once Katherine demonstrates her ability to create and solve mathematical equations, she then asks permission to attend boardroom meetings in which after much hesitation, Al Harrison grants her access on the condition she must remove her name from all her reports and credit himself instead.
Demonstrating her tenacity, Katherine works longer and harder then her white male colleagues, yet has to travel miles away each day to use a ‘coloured’ bathroom located in another building, until Al Harrison abolishes bathroom segregation. In this dramatic scene he personally knocks down the colored bathroom sign with an axe and Kevin Costner deliberately steals the show with his inclusive, inspiring speech to her fellow colleagues which have been prominently featured in the television, radio, and computer advertising for the picture.
Throughout the course of the film, Mary Jackson creates her own history by convincing the local judge to allow her to attend night classes to obtain her educational degree in a state where scholastic segregation is still legal. Mary ultimately takes her ambitions into a courtroom and challenges the law. Dorothy Vaughan also takes a leap of faith, learning coding for the new computers, which ultimately leaves her with a full time job during the phasing out of human ‘computers’.
As the launch date gets closer, Katherine is no longer needed due to the installation of computers until John Grant’s co-ordinates were incorrectly calculated, Katherine then quickly redoes the math and because of her, he returns to earth safely.
Between the costumes and set designs, the audience can feel transported into another era especially the soundtrack magnifying the pressure put on these three females.
The cinematography is spotless with the added touch of what only can be described as a yellow dream-like lens along with the correct combination of soft colors and light creates a powerful, emotional rollercoaster for the audience. A brilliant cast shows that true intelligence fosters tolerance, and it brings the human race forward.