Hidden Figures,
directed by Theodore Melfi
(20th Century Fox, 2017)

Images of astronauts taking the first steps onto the lunar surface or working on the space station flash immediately to mind when most of us think of NASA. People designing and testing rockets in rooms crowded with blackboards full of calculations are for the nerds studying engineering or computer science. Hidden Figures literally de-geeks the engineering and testing process and presents us with real-life people dealing with life-or-death situations.

The stakes are high: if a number's wrong, someone could die -- and our country could lose the space race with Russia.

It's not just the astronauts who are stepping into uncharted territory. Three young Black women: Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are working in the "colored" section of NASA as "computers." Katherine is assigned to an engineering team to test the Apollo rocket John Glenn will take into space for the first U.S. manned space flight, Mary is applying to become the first female NASA engineer, and Dorothy is doing the work of a supervisor and not getting the pay.

It's not just that they are women, it's they're "colored" women. Back in those days, that meant separate but unequal restrooms, water fountains and the back of the bus. This film clearly illustrates how precious and hard-fought equal rights are.

The film is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly and turned into a screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi. Stars also include Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell, Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford, Mahershala Ali as Col. Jim Johnson, Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson, and Glen Powell as John Glenn.

Being a cinemaniac, I see quite a few movies, but never have I been in a theater where the audience broke into spontaneous cheers at pivotal moments throughout the film and stood at the end. We were literally on the edge of our seat despite having foreknowledge of how the events did play out. I predict nominations, if not awards, for this film in multiple categories. I tend to assess films on a financial scale. Hidden Figures is worth full price to see it on the big screen. I'm also buying the DVD when it comes out as well as the amazing soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and performed by Pharrell Williams ("Happy") and Janelle Monae.

review by
Becky Kyle

4 February 2017

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