Hidden Figures (2017) Review

Verdict: Powerful

Great portrayals, settings, and soundtrack.


In the sixties, when racial tension was at its peak, three pioneering women of color worked for NASA as ‘computers’- essentially human calculators. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is recruited as a computer to help with calculations for the department responsible for hopefully sending the first man into space. Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) adopts the role of a supervisor to the group of women computers, and assigns roles, while Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) has the mind of an engineer, but no credentials to back it up. Each is up against their own issues with patriarchy and race, with Katherine having to shoulder lead engineer, Paul Stafford’s (Jim Parson) attitude, and facing up to her boss, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Dorothy, is determined to be recognized as the official supervisor, however, Mrs. Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst), the woman she reports to, says it is out of her hand.Lastly, Mary is encouraged by Karl (Olek Krupa), a Polish engineer, to fight for a degree in engineering. All of this surrounds the pivotal event of sending John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit. Directed by Theodore Melfi.

Hidden Figures is an incredibly well shot, directed, and edited movie, with great cinematography, acting and soundtrack. It is always great to learn about names who helped to deliver outstanding human feats, and to recognize them for their contribution.

Right from the beginning of the film, it establishes the tone of the movie, one in which people of color must be wary of authoritative figures. The opening scene set the theme of the film, and forebode the prejudice and discrimination these women would face throughout their career. I have to say, I am very impressed by this movie. The way in which it tells the story, and by the screenplay: self-deprecating and blunt, yet truthful, is very effective. The screenwriters did an excellent job at finding that balance between humor, passion, and suffering. I’d also like to note, that the story is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Cinematography and directing are major contributors to the success of this film, with the use of well thought out shots to create maximum effect. The use of long shots are well positioned, and enhances the effect of individuals being empowered, or of isolation. For example, there’s a shot where all the African-American computers are walking to another building, and the scene shows them walking into a hallway using a long shot from some distance away, depicting a sense of power in numbers. However, in another instance, Katherine has just had a door shut in her face, and when she turns around, a long shot is used to emphasize the empty space around her – this time, depicting desolation.

The cast as well is simply amazing in the film, and pretty much everyone fully embraces their characters. Henson, Spencer, and Monae, depict an easy bond between their characters, and their banter is seemingly effortless. They deliver their lines with appropriate amounts of sass, wit, and intelligence in respect to each of their individual characters. Monae, in particular has a very strong headed character, and she pulls it off perfectly. Costner does well in his role as project leader too. However, Dunst and Parsons give more of an average performance. Dunst’s accent is quite weird to hear, and Parsons might just be better of sticking with being a comedic physicist. Also, it would have been better if more information was given as to what these two characters actually did. They are in positions of relative power, but don’t really seem to be doing much except sit around and give orders.

I also have to say, that the soundtrack greatly complements the theme of the movie. Apparently, Pharrell Williams, a producer, oversaw all musical elements of the movie, including the soundtrack. Kudos to him, the music was enjoyable and added character to the scenes.

One of the main things that may or may not be an issue, but which I consider important in noting, is that John Glenn, the astronaut, is seen and preserved as a hero. When he is introduced on screen, he shakes hands and chats with the three women – showing that he harbors no prejudice towards their gender or skin color. While this may have happened, I have an inkling that it probably didn’t, and that Glenn would more than likely have had the same prejudices as the others. However, to preserve his hero status, filmmakers/ screenwriters made sure to keep him on the ‘good’ side.

Overall though, a very powerfully themed movie with great acting, music, and cinematography.

To sum-up:
PROS: Acting, cinematography, screenplay, music
CONS: Hero status preserved

I give this a 9/10.

Have you seen Hidden Figures? Rate it out of 5 stars above or leave a comment below!


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