Hidden Figures (2016) – Film Review

“I’m glad I stayed out for this one, though. It really grabbed me, and managed to hold my attention all the way through to the end..”

Can’t remember the last time I stayed after work for a late show—it might’ve been Captain America: Civil War—but I felt I owed it to you guys. That, and I got two movies to watch this weekend, three reviews to write up, and a full schedule of shifts at the theatre…

I’m glad I stayed out for this one, though. It really grabbed me, and managed to hold my attention all the way through to the end, despite how exhausted I was. This is, indeed, a powerful film, with leads to match. I spy Taraji P. Henson—whose character is fueled by love for her daughters and encouragement from her peers—gunning for a Lead Actress Oscar nom here, as well as Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting. Janelle Monáe’s got some real acting chops; I’m surprised she hasn’t been in more films to date, but I’d like to see her in more to come. Kevin Costner, as well—whose role is actually an amalgamation of a few real-life people at NASA during this time—was believable, had a nice character arc, and aided the plot forward. If there’s one thing that earns a film stars in my book, it’s well-written, believable characters. There’s a surprise appearance from Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage, Moonlight), whom enters the picture and becomes a primary supporting character. Nice to see him again, as well.

This is a very gripping movie. There’s no “villain”, per se, but I was feeling the building tension when that final, zero-hour deadline was literally seconds away. I got a feel of the hostile atmosphere present in the 1960s, all the Civil Rights struggles (even if I was a little beaten over the head with it all). It’s difficult to show stuff like that and still get a PG rating, though. What’s too much? What’s not enough? “Here at NASA,” as Costner’s Al Harrison so eloquently puts it, “we all pee the same color.” I laughed in some scenes, cried during others. I was on-edge as these ladies’ numbers were tested in the heat of the launch-fire. You made me feel, movie. A lot. Well-done.

I like to think of myself as a sciencey type—not cut out for the kind of work that they do at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but it still intrigues me—and I love to see when filmmakers get their facts straight. There was authenticity in the characters’ words and reasoning without being riddled with jargon or too hand-holdy. Add to that the double-entendre title—women in frontline roles at NASA, arguing that a mathematician is a mathematician, no matter their gender or color, as well as the discovery of the numbers that the men simply can’t see—and this film is chock-full of witticisms. I love it.

This movie’s got a really hip soundtrack, too, definitely ‘60s. From Ray Charles to Pharrell Williams—adding a contemporary jazz to the setting—I found myself tapping my foot more than once. Period footage of launches and flight sims, use of edited-in newscasts, as well as actual photos of the real-life women computers add to the authenticity of the piece.

Overall, Hidden Figures is a fine film, and earns a final ‘Risk Assessment of ****/*.

Next review: Patriots Day

Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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