Review: Hidden Figures

Everyone should know about the Space Race in the 1960s. The time when this country had a competitive rivalry with Russia to determine which global power could break through into the frontier of space travel; history gives us the general idea of what happened and who was involved but the film Hidden Figures peels back the curtain to show audiences who was really involved and instrumental in how America won the Space Race.

In a period racial segregation and gender stereotypes, in a time when the brightest minds of this country aimed to break new grounds in the fields of science and engineering, Katherine Goble, later Katherine G. Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn played instrumental roles in how NASA was able to successfully send John Glenn into orbit. Director Theodore Melfi and screenwriter Allison Schroeder do right by honoring these remarkable and fearless women in a film the aptly demonstrates that intelligence, perseverance and grit knows no color or gender in a period that takes too much consideration into both.

I liked Hidden Figures well enough. As a film, it accomplishes what it sets out to do, it doesn’t take any unnecessary risks and it is practically well put together with firm direction, sturdy and noteworthy writing courtesy of Melfi and Schroeder based on Margot Lee Shirley’s book and spearheaded by three very fine performances by Teraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

I believe this is worth seeing because I believe that the premise of this film is important for its target audience, particularly women and minorities because this movie has a message for those target audiences: that what you have to contribute can’t be taken from you because of who you are or what you look like.

Yet what keeps Hidden Figures out of the “great movie” category and firmly entrenched in the “good movie” category if you know what I mean, is that it just plays too safe; it goes where you would probably expect it to go and it doesn’t exactly take you by surprise. It’s not The Help, where you have that one eyebrow raising moment or a moment that takes your breath away but the effort to be in that company is there.

Again, this is a very solid cast. Henson, Spencer and Monáe all shine in the lead roles and the supporting cast of Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Glen Powell, Aldis Hodge, Kimberly Quinn and Lydia Jewett are all solid as well.

Mandy Walker’s cinematography is fair, the editing of Peter Teschner is noteworthy, the score is distinct and credit must be given to the team of Pharrell Williams, Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, the costumes of Renee Ehrlich Kalfus are appropriate if not striking, the production design of Wynn Thomas is practical; this was a film that is very moderate in its production.

Hidden Figures is a movie that doesn’t break new ground but it keeps its feet firmly on the ground with a message that aims high and that in of itself is as respectable as this movie is.

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