As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as "human computers", we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history's greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.
If you’re searching for down-to-earth family entertainment look to the stars, with this inspiring story of the hidden figures in America’s space race.
Based on the book of three African-American women and their crucial roles at NASA, it’s a shame 20th Century Fox enlisted a white male - who’s only made one movie - to bring such an amazing untold story to screen. It’s not like director and co-writer Theodore Melfi (St Vincent) doesn’t do a very safe and commendable job, but I feel it could have rocketed to the front of the Oscar race with the right stuff at the throttle. But his TV-movie-of-the-week direction can’t mask the heart and soul of this incredible crowd-pleaser– my mum loved it and if you enjoyed the likes of The Blindside or The Help you’ll love it too.
While a movie about math, it’s the cast’s chemistry that makes Hidden Figures more than the sum of its parts. Each of the starring trio - Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Janelle Monae (Moonlight) – have their time to shine, with Henson an absolute gem as the shy Katherine. Her back and forth with the always-entertaining Kevin Costner is worth admission alone. The supporting cast is a little lacklustre, Jim Parsons is just channelling his Big Bang Theory alter ego Sheldon, and the talents of Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali (who is brilliant in Moonlight) go to waste.
A lot of this is ‘based’ on a true story with many factors and characters are condensed to fit the two-hour running time – but surprisingly some of the standout scenes did occur in real life, like an astronaut’s request for Henson herself to check the numbers before a crucial flight. There’s also great use of historical footage mixed in with gorgeous period detail and Pharrell Williams supervises the soulful soundtrack.
An unabashed crowd-pleaser, the amazing untold story and some cracking performances helps Hidden Figures add up to some great family entertainment.
Releases: 26th January 2017
Rating: PG – Contains coarse language
Duration: 127 minutes
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
Director: Theodore Melfi (St Vincent)
When Taraji P. Henson signed on for the lead role, she met with the real-life Katherine Johnson, who was 98 years old, to discuss the character she was about to portray. Henson learned that Johnson had graduated from high school at age 14 and from college at age 18, and was still as lucid as anyone years younger. After the film was screened for Johnson, she expressed her genuine approval of Henson's portrayal, but wondered why anybody would want to make a film about her life.
Several of the control console props in the Mercury Mission Control set were originally built for the Mission Control Room set for Apollo 13 (1995). They were modified for use in the later films, including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015).
The film reunites Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner, who previously appeared together in Black or White (2014).
Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe also appear in _Moonlight(2016)_.
Octavia Spencer appeared with Jim Parsons in an episode of "The Big Bang Theory," "The Euclid Alternative." She played a clerk at the DMV.
Notice while Octavia Spencer is driving the 1957 Chevy that the shift position is in always in park.