• Hidden Figures - A Review


      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      The 1960's were a decade full of firsts and equally full of change and the changes that were important and had far reaching consequences were widely publicised either at the time or as the years unfold.

      Almost!

      Hidden Figures is a remarkable story of a group of three remarkable women, remarkable because of their work in the fledgling US Space program, and equally remarkable because they were afro-american women who were working at a time when "coloureds", as they were disparagingly described in those days, were barely considered as second class citizens.

      The previously untold story is that of of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

      These three women were brilliant mathematically oriented African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

      This was a time when the USSR got the jump on the Americans with both the first satellite into space - Sputnik, the first live creature in space - the dog Laika , and then the first man into space - Yuri Gugarin.

      These achievements shocked the US out of its complacency, but it becomes clear when the story unfolds that without these three women, the US may have been dithering around for a long time instead of getting into space and restoring the nation's confidence

      In fact it becomes quite apparent that without the achievements of these women the US would not have turned around the Space Race, and in turn galvanized the world.

      Yet while the film rightly concentrates on the remarkable mathematical feats of these three it also reminds us, most pointedly, of the rampant racism that was still being practiced throughout the community and in workplaces at that time.

      Kevin Costner plays the part of the Project boss to perfection and it is his steady head that prevails and offers not just the opportunity for "Katherine" to show her stuff, he helps break down many colour barriers that were obviously endemic within NASA at the time.

      Very honourable mention goes to Jim Parsons who plays the part of Katherine's boss once she is let loose in the inner sanctum of NASA, that is headed by Al Harrison - played by Kevin Costner. Parsons draws upon his "know it all" persona that he plays so well in the TV series - Big Bang Theory.

      Yet the film does not allow itself to distract us from these amazing women, especially of Katherine Johnson, a brilliant “computer”. It is ironic that this is the term used in those days to described those who did the mathematical detail were call "computers" and without revealing too much - Johnson is the star not just of the film, but of the achievement of NASA in getting John Glenn into space.

      Dorothy Vaughan, who supervises a team of coloured women working as "computers" over at the West Computing Building at NASA, is denied the title of Supervisor despite doing the job and pay packet to match because she is "coloured" by condescending colleague Kirsten Dunst.

      During the film a early IBM computer is introduced to NASA to do away with the "computers", but neither the NASA men or the IBM men can get it to work - Dorothy does, and in doing so sets the scene for a remarkable career that I won't speak of and will leave for you discover when you see the film.

      Finally there is Mary Jackson, who must lobby a local judge to allow her access to a local segregated school so she can take night classes that will enable her to train as Nasa’s first female black engineer. Stories within stories is a critical essence of this film and director Theodore Melfi does it really well.


      Janelle Monae, Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer

      The visionary trio, who were real life friends, crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

      This film is a must. It is truly inspiring and the only question left unanswered at the end of the film is, why did it take 5 decades to be told?



      Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson (L-R) were real "human computers"
      at NASA when the U.S. made some of its biggest strides in space.



      CAST

      It has a very large cast but the principles are -


      Taraji P. Henson - Katherine G. Johnson

      Octavia Spencer - Dorothy Vaughan

      Janelle Monáe - Mary Jackson

      Kevin Costner - Al Harrison

      Kirsten Dunst - Vivian Mitchell

      Jim Parsons - Paul Stafford

      Mahershala Ali - Colonel Jim Johnson

      Aldis Hodge - Levi Jackson

      Glen Powell - John Glenn



      Watch the trailer -
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