Film review: Hidden Figures (4 out of 5)

Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures
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It seems there have been quite a few movies ‘based on true events’ recently. Some have told a good tale, some have highlighted interesting events.

Hidden Figures, though, is a film that helps the world to recognise three amazing women who made a positive difference to science and equal rights.

African-Americans Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson became part of the NASA programme in the 1960s.

The race between the USA and Russia to ‘control’ space was at its height, the feeling being that the person in charge would have the upper hand in a world paranoid about nuclear war.

‘Human computers’ were used at NASA to help with the enormous mathematical tasks involved to get an astronaut into space and back safely.

But, of course, this was also a time when the battle for civil rights was building to a peak.

Segregated buses, toilets, drinking water fountains and even libraries were the norm, especially in the South.

Hidden Figures is a great tribute to the three main characters who were outstanding mathematicians and who helped make great scientific advances and in their own way chipped away at the ugly edifice that is racism.

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe play the three ladies - not that well known in the film industry but who are excellent in their roles.

Kevin Costner as the NASA project leader Al Harrison is back in the form that made him a household name all those years ago.

And Kirsten Dunst handles very well a difficult part of a clearly racist person who oversees the ‘human computers’.

I’m sure in real life some of the women’s civil rights issues that are highlighted and, indeed, aspects of the maths, weren’t solved quite so quickly and dramatically as shown, but it’s tough to fit it all into two hours.

And the role The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons has doesn’t really work for me. When you play a scientific genius for many years in a TV sitcom and then go into a film role as a maths expert, well it didn’t seem much of a stretch for a man with undoubted talent.

Director Theodore Melfi doesn’t have a long CV but he pulls this movie together well. We are spared the extremes of racism but he manages to get across what it was like in those turbulent times.

But the most important aspect, though, is that the vital work of these three incredible women can be appreciated by a worldwide audience.

Film details: Hidden Figures (PG) 127mins

Director: Theodore Melfi

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol