Hidden Figures

It’s hard to imagine now, but at one point in our history, we were on the brink of national catastrophe at every turn. Because we didn’t know just how bad Russia was at a lot of things. They did beat us into space, though.

And that kicked off a frenzy of scientific activity which culminated in our successful landing of a man on the moon. But first we had to just get him into space.

Hidden Figures tells the story of how three black women (the two modifiers most likely to result in discrimination) worked within the echelons of NASA. A building pretty stocked with white men not used to others being smarter than them.

The time period is the ultimate irony. Here we are, preparing to send a man to the moon, and we still have separate bathrooms for colored folks. The prime of scientific advancement and the depths of social immorality. This stark contrast is brought into focus from the first scene when a police officer comments that he didn’t know NASA hired people like them. Octavia Butler responds with a quick “Well, NASA does hire a lot of women these days.” But honestly, the officer was probably just as surprised by the notion that women work at NASA too.

The acting is fantastic. Kevin Costner gets to play a rough hockey coach with a heart of gold type character. The three lead actresses, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae inhabit their roles with barely concealed glee. The standout being Henson. It’s all rounded out by some decent supporting performances by Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons.

I really enjoyed this film. The directing is solid, the editing smooth, and the story is ripe with racial conflicts that break your heart. This was not that long ago. I run into a conundrum because sometimes I view this kind of movie as an easing of white guilt. Oh wow, we are so much better than that today! When in truth it’s still pretty bad to be a minority or a woman. But at the same time, these stories need to be told, because they are important. Even if the impact of the film is lessened when you find out that most of the three leads’ arcs happened before the events of the film.

But that’s too nitpicky. The film is great. Even though you know what happens, you will still find yourself on the edge of your seat. Because it’s always great to beat those dang russkies.

3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

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