Copyright © 2016 by 20th Century Fox
In 1961, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia staffs Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a mathematician who is reassigned into an all-white team in the Space Task Group commanded by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to assess the calculations of the scientists scurrying to match Sputnik and launch John Glenn (Glen Powell) into space. Exceptional at her work, she is indispensable to NASA but is troubled by the mistreatment from the rest of the men. Her colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) face similar barricades to their careers but their determination pay off as they become key figures in contributing to the space race.
Celebrating a life’s work and presenting it as entertainment would normally have the protagonist face with insurmountable adversities that finishes on an inspiring high. Such examples of optimism inculcated about the minority include ‘Ali’, ‘Invictus’, ‘42’, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and ‘Selma’. These great men of colour encouraged equality through their intellect, compassion and resolution.
But let’s make room for a few more to join the coveted list. The ladies at NASA are stepping out from their crummy basement and essaying for their own progression in a workplace systematically run by white men. ‘Hidden Figures’ is a frank, pleasing tale of triumph that radiates with current relevance fronted by a fiery Henson and an imposing debut from Monáe.
The quiet dignity Henson adorns Johnson is infectious that you cannot help but be enamored by her struggle. It sets the audience up to the film’s big, purgative moment, one that is no stranger even till this day. Monáe’s Jackson is brassy. Queenly yet delicate, she is the most forthright and ambitious of the lot, flaunting her mind and independence with attitude.
There is a universal fascination of overcoming obstacles and inequity for mankind’s greater victory. ‘Hidden Figures’ brings these previously unjustly invisible women to global recognition while avoiding broad-stroke beats of a civil rights drama and focusing on the women’s private lives. The script has been accused of fudging the facts and intentionally saccharine-coated but it is visibly off trajectory if this crowd-pleaser never saw the light of day.
Rated PG for thematic elements and some language