By Tania Phillips
Hidden Figures (PG)
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae
Fun, bold, sassy and well told without really sinking into sentimentality or preaching, Hidden Figures tells the story of three incredibly gifted mathematicians working for NASA in the early 1960s.
Of course what makes the story even more interesting is that they were African American women living in a time when prejudices ran deep against women, working women and African Americans, and yet these three women crossed lines of gender of race.
Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) served as some of the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that resorted US confidence, turned around the space race, and galvanised the world.
Octavia Spencer as usual dominates the screen and Taraji P. Henson’s Katherine is a beautifully understated portrait.
However it’s a surprising and fictional character that really brings this picture together – Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, the head of the NASA facility where they work.
He is actually a fictionalised conglomeration of three guys that worked there at the time, according to Costner in recent interviews.
It’s Costner’s prickly but ultimately endearing character Harrison and his slow realisation of both their talent and what they go through that gives you a window into that time.
There are some movies that are great entertainment and some that inform you and this is one that manages to do both – and is justifiably a dark horse for this year’s best picture Oscar.