Amongst the list of ‘Awards’ films this season, Hidden Figures takes place in 1961, as the United States locks horns (or space helmets) with the USSR in a bid to be the first to go where no man has ever gone before. But underneath all this space supremacy are the individuals who helped make it all possible, more specifically, the forgotten black women who aided in making the space dream a reality. Katherine Goble Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn work as computers in the segregated West Area Computers division for NASA, but have bigger dreams. Jackson wants to be an engineer, Vaughn a supervisor, and Johnson wants a shot to show how exceptional she is with calculations. The film details their struggles against other staff and the system in general.
The film overflows with heart and passion, largely benefitting from its talented and charismatic cast who dazzle on screen, as these inspirational characters, with Janelle Monáe standing out as Mary Jackson, as she injects a distinctive, sassy personality into the character. Meanwhile, Henson stands strong as Katherine Goble Johnson, as she showcases the sheer brilliance of the character against her colleagues, and her passion for mathematics, while Spencer’s Vaughn truly cares about her fellow black women and aids them in achieving their full potential, as well as her own.
You want these women to succeed and they do. This is perhaps what Hidden Figures does best, giving attention to these women and their achievements so others can feel inspired by, and aware of, their journey.
Possessing a real ‘community’ vibe between the black women, its spirit is infectious, positioning the film as a ‘feel-good’ affair, despite historical inaccuracies. Importantly, it acknowledges the struggles of African-American women during the time of segregation; one which no doubt holds contemporary relevance.
Hidden Figures firmly shines the spotlight on the remarkable and largely unknown story of the black women who were crucial to the Space Race, giving these outstanding ladies a resounding voice and forever memorialising them in film for years to come.