Film Review: Hidden Figures

Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures is a feel-good film with great performances from its ensemble cast.

In 1961, the United States are in a race with Russia to see who can put a man in space. NASA finds untapped potential in a group of African-American female mathematicians working as human computers. Three of these women play a vital role in the space race…

Hidden Figures tells an important story about the achievements of three women with the odds stacked against them. Based on Margot Lee Sheerly’s book, the film gives worthy recognition to these women and their story. What makes Hidden Figures special is that it is incredibly entertaining, as well as informative.

Melfi’s storytelling makes the film a joy to watch. Hidden Figures first contemporary scene does a succinct job of making viewers aware of the social condition of the era, as well as giving a quick insight in the three main character’s personalities. As the film progresses, Melfi explores each of these characters with sufficient depth, taking place in the overarching narrative of NASA’s mission to put a man in space.

The film combines drama with comedy in a seemingly effortless way. Melfi offers humour throughout, although the film is punctuated by moments of drama and a tense climax. The romance strand is explored just enough, giving an insight into a home life for the extraordinary women. Katherine, Dorothy and Mary are portrayed as talented women who manage to break through an almost overwhelming hierarchy. However, they are each portrayed as characters in their own right, and with enough personal detail. There is an element of the benign father figure to Al Harrison, however this does not detract from the entertainment of the film.

Tara P. Henson delivers strong performance as Katherine Jackson. Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner, and Kirsten Dunst are also good. It is Janelle Monáe, however, who stands out as Mary. Music by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams (who also produces), and Benjamin Wallfisch ably sets the tone. Costumes and styling in the film are polished and appealing.

Hidden Figures gives rightful attention to the overlooked contribution of three African-American trailblazers of the 1960s. It tells their stories in a very engaging and warm manner.

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