It has been a bit since my last travels to the cinema, and now seems to be an excellent time to go for a night out with all the new releases and Oscar picks. “Hidden Figures” was one of those which I was very eager to check out, but do the accolades meet the expectations?
Set during the early 1960’s and based on true events, the story depicts three African American women working within NASA during the time when Russia was taking the lead in the Space Race. Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer), and Mary (Janelle Morae), are three brilliantly minded Mathematicians and Engineers, but their gender and race in this decade means their talents are being held back and face countless barriers. As NASA and the U.S. Government become more serious about the race to get a man in Space, we see the rise to fame for these three women, and how their achievements help put NASA back in the race.
So you have a film based on historic events, Science, and highlighting both the gender and racial struggles of the time. Quite a lot to take on, but then again, we’ve seen other examples take those on individually. (The Imitation Game is a good example) But something like Science is something that doesn’t get picked up by a major studio all the time, and even in 2017, it will still gather interest for that alone.
The overall tone is one that definitely feels inspirational and uplifting even with the troubles that decade bring. It is hard not to smile and get a thrill for each achievement these three women win. After all I love Science, and seeing how someone be a “Computer” – that is, compute figures without any calculating assistance, is nuts! And yet during the early days of the Space Program, that was how it was all done, with paper, pencils, and intelligence. The movie wsnts to celebrate this time and what the people were even able to achieve considering the monumental task that was laid before them.
But this is of course balanced with the troubles, and they vary from the racial and sexist, to downright absurd. Travelling half a mile to find a coloured bathroom, or being given vastly uninformative data because they were women, is not an easy thing to watch. It throws into light that the struggles of that time didn’t just effect the working class – they effected everyone. One particular outcry by Taraji’s character had the theatre in a deafened silence, it was utterly heartbreaking.
But like I said, things here aren’t all gloom, and it is celebrating some of the most brilliant mathematical minds of the past fifty years. And to that point, the performances by everyone are just spectacular. The three lead roles are particularly stunning – they work wonderfully well together in scenes involving all of them, but also hold their own storylines with supreme ease. Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Costner, and Mahershala Ali, are the stand out actors for me. The cast altogether has a really nice variety in personalities and methods to acting, and it gives the film plenty of entertaining depth.
Now, it should be said (and this is only from what I have read in brief), that some of the events in here aren’t how they exactly happened at the time. Remember – this is not a documentary, and so there will be some creative alterations in order to serve the film better overall. If you’d like accuracy, there are plenty of sources out there as well as the novel. For a biopic, what matters is if it can capture the sentiment of the time in a manner that feels like it is drawing from authentic sources. So long as it does that, an audience can buy it, and I feel that is what is done here. The events will be relateable to those who lived through those times, even if they aren’t accurate to the true story entirely.
As for flaws, I found almost none that need major discussion. Some aspects of the Civil Rights Movement are mentioned rather briefly, but not to a stage where they feel thrown in. The romance arc is nice, but never swamps over the main plot. Instead, it is a nice inclusion that gives the characters more depth. Even the running time felt pretty bang-on the mark. Not rushed, and never overstaying the welcome.
“Hidden Figures” manages to do so much in just one film. Highlighting racial and women’s rights, the incredible Science employed at NASA, the birth of the computer, the Space Race, and a warm friendship that surpasses all obstacles. It is at times sad and difficult to watch, but at others inspiring and brilliant. Even funny too. There’s just so damm much crammed in that you are certain to find something to love.
And I did indeed LOVE this, it was so worth the long ass wait for it to reach the local cinema. There is not just a biopic or some inspiring quotes to be find here, there is so much more. And honestly, I think it is essential that you see it.
Thanks for reading!