Hidden Figures Review: A Film That Makes You Revisit the Past For a Better Future
The film serves as a reminder to revisit the past to make the America’s future great.
Cast: Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parson, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Theodre Melfi
Director Theodre Melfi’s Hidden Figures is perhaps the most relevant film in the present time. At a time when America is grappling to come to terms with an extremist President who wants to build walls instead of bridges, treats women as second class citizens, Hidden Figures, set in the 1960s, gives out a strong message alibi subtly.
The story is based on a real life story of three brave, intelligent African-American women, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who work as 'computers' in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The three women are exceptionally gifted and talented and have the confidence to break into white male-dominated domain of space engineering yet they remain underutilized due to the colour of their skin. It is a time when USA and Russia are fiercely competing with each other to prove their astronautical supremacy.
As Russia beats America by becoming the first country in the world to go to space, frustration and pressure builds up in NASA, forcing Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) the head of Space Task Group to hire ‘computer’ Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson). And while she excels at her work and impresses Harrison, her colleagues treat her unequally. Similarly, her friends, Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) and Mary (Janelle Monáe) have to fight their battles to make people believe in their capabilities.
A poignant film on how America in the 1960s, despite equal civil rights, treated coloured people. There was segregation in every quarter. At the high school, on the streets, the library, and even at the highly competitive NASA. And the film highlights how these women broke age old shackles and proved their worth in the society.
There are so many scenes in the film that drive home the point of equality in the most beautiful way. There are scenes which highlight the grim situation that existed in America, a country known for being progressive and liberal in present days (or is it really?). Despite being a gifted mathematician, Katherine has to travel half a mile in her office campus to relieve herself because the wing in which she sits, there is no bathroom for the coloured people. And how one day she breaks down and tells her curious boss why she takes such long breaks in between which ultimately leads Harrison to break the signboard outside the ‘colored bathroom’ and making bathroom usage free for all. Then there is a scene where Mary has to go to court and convince the judge to let her be the first African-American to study engineering in an all white school so that she can use her expertise at NASA. Scenes so beautifully enacted and showing how a community had to fight hard to get its rightful place in the American society.
The film has a stellar cast. From Taraji P Henson to Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner to Jim Parson, the film boasts of super performances and even though the film highlights the grim, tedious struggle that African-Americans had to face to get equal rights, the narrative remains light and breezy making you break into a smile ever so often.
Hidden Figures may be a tribute to the unsung heroes of NASA who along with many other Americans helped the country to embark on its first outer space journey back in the 1960s, but it also serves as a reminder to the current government on how the country progressed as it opened its doors to diverse communities in the past which made America ‘great’ and ‘progressive’. The film serves as a reminder to revisit the past to make the America’s future great.