Hidden Figures is an inspiring true story about breaking barriers and the brilliant intuitiveness of women. Anchored by a remarkable true story and elevated by a well-crafted cast, Hidden Figures shoots for the moon.
Set in the early '60s, Hidden Figures tells the true story of African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and her two colleagues at NASA, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). With the U.S. losing ground to the Soviet Union in the Space race, these three women become integral parts of country's eventual space success -- overcoming intense racial and gender divides in the process.
The movie presents their leads as crafty and conscious individuals. There is a clear and immediate contrast between who they are as people and how a racist America views them. Each lead role has a distinct and authentic personality that audiences can't help but root for: Katherine is hard-working, Dorothy is always thinking two steps ahead and Mary is determined beyond belief.
Falling behind in the Space Race, NASA is desperately looking to crack the code and be the first to have an astronaut successfully orbit the earth. That responsibility ultimately falls on the shoulders of Katherine, although most would have nothing to do with her. The only one capable of doing the job, she is constantly limited by her own social status and extreme prejudice -- both of which she must overcome.
Henson, Spencer and Monáe are wonderful leads, but they are only as strong as the fictional scum that plays opposite to them. Arguably the most immersive thing about this movie is how honestly the culture is presented. Most white characters in the film don't present an aggressively racist and violent nature towards the black characters. Instead, it's a lot more subtle. Some white people are afraid of "the Negroes", others are disgusted and some ignorantly believe themselves to not be racist.
Careful to not focus too heavily on the film's central plot, there is just enough distraction on the side to let the movie breathe. Love and humour are occasionally injected into the movie to help give it life. The pacing was a small issue and a story about maths can only be so excited, but damn did they do a good job.
Hidden Figures is an inspirational true story and a real tribute to three brave, brilliant black women (and all the other brave, brilliant black women of the time) and the obstacles they overcame. It's a refreshing take on space-centric stories and a highlight of 2016 cinema.
*The Shak Rating System:
5 - Film of the Century
4.5 - Acadamy Award-Worthy
4 - (One of) The Year’s Top Movies
3.5 - Worth Price of Admission
3 - See it on a Tuesday
2.5 – Let Someone Else Buy Your Ticket
2 - Maybe After a Few Drinks
1.5- Are You Sure You Have Nothing Better to Do Tonight?
1 - The Movie Equivalent of a Zombie Bite