Monday, February 13, 2017

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Hidden Figures

This movie snuck up on me. I hadn't even heard of it until a couple of weeks ago. In light of recent orange-hued events, watching this movie felt more necessary and important.


Hidden Figures is set in the early days of the space race, in the run-up to John Glen's circumnavigation of the globe in 1962. As you probably already know, the movie focuses on three African American women who managed to fight through the prejudice of Jim Crow-era Virginia to become essential parts of the space programme.

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae star as, respectively,  Katharine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson. Johnson was a maths prodigy who invented the maths that allowed Glenn's capsule to return to Earth; Vaughn taught herself how to use the massive IBM computer that was intended to make her team redundant, and Jackson fought to become qualified as an engineer.

The movie is based largely around Johnson, and her rise from a glorified calculator to a key member of the team that eventually put man on the moon.

The cast are all great (Kevin Costner is also very good as their boss) but this is Taraji P. Henson's show. Henson has been great before (she even salvages her corner of Joe Carnahan's messy Smoking' Aces), and this role is another terrific showcase for the actress. Her role on TV phenomenon Empire may have raised her profile, but this is the first real chance she's had to stretch on the big screen in a while.

I would go into more detail, but this movie has had plenty of good notices. Suffice to say, Hidden Figures is a good story well-told. There is nothing particularly unique or new about it cinematically. It is just good, clean story-telling, based around a trio of great performances. It's an old-fashioned Oscar season movie, but it's a great example of the kind. Check it out.

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