A poster of Hidden Figures Movie Review - Hidden Figures17 Feb 2017 | 5:21 PM
Film: Hidden Figures
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Kirsten Dunst,
Kevin Costner, Janelle Monae
Director: Theodore Melfi
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This is a rousing film in which the luminous trio - Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae - star as mathematicians, who played significant behind-the-scenes roles in the American space programme.
The opening sequence has a shiny Chevy Bel Air break down in the middle of the road. The three women are working to fix it when a traffic cop pulls up. It’s year 1960 and America is still race segregated. The women are of course subjected to mocking questioning and slurs before they show him their badges, and win an escorted ride all the way to NASA’s Langley Research Center. That opening is an eye-opener to the spunky brilliance that the trio has working in their favour. And the fight is not only against male chauvinism, it’s also against the absurdity, cruelty and pervasiveness of racial inequality even within the haloed portals of higher intelligence.
Set during the hectic months leading to astronaut John Glenn’s 1962 orbit of Earth, the film focuses on the three key African-American members of the NASA team, which made his flight possible.
Henson is the bespectacled Katherine Goble (later Katherine Johnson), a maths prodigy and member of the West Computing Group at Langley. She is one among the 20 African-American women who are ‘computers’, segregated and housed in a dingy basement office. Katherine’s friend and colleague Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) supervises the group without benefit of that official designation or the salary that would go with it. While Mary Jackson (Monae), another friend, is placed on the team working on the Mercury capsule prototype.
The screenplay is an adaptation from a book by Margot Lee Shetterly. Melfi and co-writer Allison Schroeder have fashioned a narrative that makes for a stirring document on the human spirit. The fears and oppressions of the era are all too evocative. Melfie builds up a cathartic involvement that makes you want to cheer for the three able women and their many firsts. But it’s mainly the unerringly resonating work by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae as well as Kevin Costner as the head of Langley’s Space Task Group that makes this unique experience much deeper and definitively fruitful!
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