Director: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner, Janelle Monae, Jim Parsons, Aldis Hodge, Mahershala Ali
A stirring drama about three brilliant African-American women at NASA- Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) – who jostle to create their own space in a premier organization that was like many others, given to fantastic notions of white privilege. This is a feel-good drama that is intended to reveal the untold story about how race played an important role in the U.S.-Soviet space race.
The three women, while serving as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history (the launch of astronaut John Glenn played by Glen Powell, into orbit) prove beyond doubt that they are not only equal to the task but also capable of standing up and fighting for the rights and privileges denied them for a long time. Their august participation behind-the-scenes, in the space program, at a time when IBM mainframes were just being built and tested, brought on a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race with USSR in the 1960's, and galvanized the world.
The victoriously scripted “Hidden Figures” tells their stories with a passion and verve that keeps you engaged and enraged at some of the injustices and indignities that our ladies were subjected to. They are back-room ladies who would have never got their due publically, but for the filmmaker and his interest in their indelible contribution to NASA's space program. The film is structured and paced quite effectively, giving the audience enough meat to chew on.
Co-writer/director Theodore Melfi who adapted Margot Lee Shetterly's book with co-writer Allison Schroeder, lends the movie some light touches that allows for much greater audience involvement. Be it about depicting the absurdity of segregated bathrooms or the injustice of denying a hard working African American women the post of supervisor merely because of her color, or rejecting the application of a brilliant mechanical mind from studying to become an engineer, the disadvantages that these three women faced are set up in a manner that makes you want to get involved in their struggles and root for them when they take that 'First' step towards race equality.
Taraji P Henson's brilliant speech when questioned about her disappearance from the workplace for an hour or more makes your hair stand on end. Octavia Spencer's expression of resigned acceptance when she finally gets the post of supervisor which she struggled so much for makes you want to cheer and Janelle Monae's unreserved shout of joy when the court accepts her contention that she be allowed to study in an all-white school, makes you want to stand up in respect for all the hardships she has overcome to reach this point. The entertaining dialogue between the three women establish their friendship while their unique skill sets find definition in their contributions to the space program. Kevin Costner does a wonderful and effective turn as the no-nonsense, ambitious-for-America, head of the program,
Al Harrison, who breaks the segregation barrier while encouraging genius to flourish. Ultimately , this is Melfie's film and he sets up a rhythm and tempo that is at once inspiring and totally involving- but of course the stirring background score makes for a strong supportive role too!
Watch the trailer of 'Hidden Figures'