If you judge the new film Hidden Figures by its trailer, you would think that this is the biggest underserved Oscar bait shoe-in since Sandra Bullock stole an Academy Award for The Blind Side. It has all the markings of a voting panel’s future darling. It’s an inspirational true story of three black women overcoming the odds to help America make global history. Some of said odds include segregation, gender biases and a battle against the ever advancing clock of the Russians one-upping the good ol’ U.S. of A. For this reason, I might have had one or two very deep eye rolls when I first got introduced to the initial ads. I was really happy to see this wasn’t the case.
The film is set in the 1960s, as three African American women start their new positions at NASA. Mathematics geniuses, Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), their drive and brilliance shakes up the entire organization as the expertise in their respective areas end up putting the American space program back on track, but rampant racism threatens to diminish their final place in history. In a well plotted out and captivating character piece, we witness these true heroes story, one that may not be in wide knowledge of the world.
I found myself very enthralled with this movie really early on into it. The cast is top-notch, starting with the three leads, Henson making a very convincing bid for a Best Actress Oscar and Monae easily stepping up as my favorite new actress this year. It also helps that she was so great in Moonlight, alongside fellow Hodden Figures cast member Mahershala Ali. Kevin Costner also shows his character actor chops as Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group. It’s a performance that should insert him back into those best supporting conversations again. It has been awhile.
With an original feeling score by Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, Hidden Figures trots along at a great pace and never seems to get dull. There are, of course, scenes of sappy melodrama, especially when it comes to the romantic subplot of Katherine and her future husband Jim Johnson (Ali) but it works beautifully with the story and St. Vincent director Theodore Melfi may have solidified a nice spot for himself as a director of note. Sometimes these films can come off like the aforementioned lure for awards that we always get at this time of the year but I say you can allow yourself to be drawn in by Hidden Figures, it’s a real gem. 4.5/5