Reviewed by Joelle Jackson
January 7, 2017
Since the origination of the film industry, there have been many films that are “based on a true story” or “inspired by actual events.” As an avid cinephile, I have seen many of them and I am certain that there are more in my future. Movies that depict historical events are true examples of art imitating life. We connect to stories that reflect real moments differently than any other type of film because we are granted the opportunity to experience a portion of what the real people endured by watching the actors on the screen. This is true with “Hidden Figures” more than most, if any, film that I have ever seen.
Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) are three brilliant African-American women who worked for NASA in 1960s segregated Virginia. During a time when African-Americans had to sit in the back of buses, use separate (and poorly maintained) restrooms, were refused service at “all white” restaurants, and generally treated as second class citizens, these three women were three shining lights within the hallways of the nation’s foremost scientific organization. Their mission was to send an American astronaut into the Earth’s orbit. Despite their intellectual abilities, they were constantly overlooked because of their gender and the color of their skin. Katherine was repeatedly denied access to briefings to discuss crucial information to performing her job because there was “no protocol for a woman” attendees. Mary had to petition a Virginia court to attend an all-white school in order to become an engineer. Dorothy was consistently rejected for a supervisor position despite doing all of the work of a competent manager. Despite all of the obstacles, these ladies fought for their respect, maintained their dignity, and made their mark on American history.
Henson, Monae, and Spencer give spectacular performances as this trio of powerful women. With each scene, you feel their pain and frustration along with their excitement and joy in the daunting task of sending a human into space and ensuring his safe return. With a well written script by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (who also directed) based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the pace of the film was perfect for the time period and the subject matter. Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Benjamin Wallfisch created a soundtrack and score that fits the film perfectly. This film has the right ingredients for a wonderful experience.
Verdict: A+. I highly recommend this film! Go see it…right now…