Hidden Figures

2hrs 6mins | Rated PG | Coarse language

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe

Hidden Figures tells the remarkable true story of three NASA employees whose work was instrumental in getting the first American into space in the 1960s.
Remarkable, why? Because behind the scenes in the sea of white, middle-aged men there was a little-known troupe of unacknowledged African-American women – tucked away in a basement where they worked tirelessly doing the math, computing the science and unable to rise through the ranks due to the double blow of gender and race.
The film focuses on three plucky real-life personages, the principal being maths prodigy Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson) who, despite the challenges for African-Americans in attending school in the 1920s and 30s, went to university at age 15 and graduated with degrees in maths and French.
Working at NASA decades later, with best friends Dorothy Vaughan (the brilliant Octavia Spencer) and the sassy Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), Goble is tenacious in the face of ignorance and prejudice.
As Goble goes up against the white male scientists headed by a terrific Kevin Costner.
The most compelling scenes are those where our protagonists stand up in the face of a segregation that is as hurtful as it is subtle (in particular, Goble's reproach of a system which forces her to run half a mile to the Colored Restroom is desperately moving), and to realise this was happening only 50 years ago.
Occasionally light-hearted in a manner which inevitably evokes movies like The Help, Hidden Figures is both an eye-opener into a side of segregated America most viewers will not have seen, and an immensely likeable underdog story.
But while there are moments of high tension as astronauts are launched into space and calculations are completed at the 11th hour, the film excels in its more personal moments – when the impact of inequality on human lives is laid bare.
Thrilling, moving and empowering, Hidden Figures is a timely tale, beautifully told.

Sunday Star Times