The new film by director Theodore Melfi is the drama Hidden Figures which follows the tale of 3 african american ladies working in different jobs at Nasa through the 1960’s. It is co written by Melfi with Allison Schroeder, based on the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.
The three ladies are each working to attempt to support the endeavours of the Space Agency as they work towards putting a man in space as part of the space race with Russia.
Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) is a highly talented mathematician that can compute advanced geometry calculations, which are key to the planned launch. However even being so important to the team, she meets issue after issue ranging from a lack of toilets that she can use in the building, all of the way through to being forced to drink from a different coffee pot.
Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) is leading a team of ladies who manually compute calculations but she has not been given the recognition of a ‘Supervisor’ title, even though, that is the job that she is doing.
Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) is being prevented from applying for an Engineering job at the Agency because of a recent change in the criteria, and the requirement to attend a local school that is segregated (i.e., only white people can attend).
Additionally in supporting roles is Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, director of the planning group, Kirsten Dunst as a supervisor, Jim Parsons as a head engineer and Glen Powell as astronaut John Glen. Costner especially eats up the role of the enigmatic director so keen on the success of the mission.
The film operates at 3 levels. The first is almost the incidental tale, that of the US space race as they compete to put a man into space and the build up and realisation of the flight that saw John Glen orbit the globe.
The second is the engaging tale of the three ladies taking on the adversity of their situation, and refusing to back down from challenging their allocated positions. They each face their own struggles and each provide true inspirational tales.
The third, is the actual context of the times that the film offers. The almost ambient level of racist segregation that is taking place throughout the communities, town, buses, courthouse, and even the agency itself is a shocking reminder of what parts of the United States were operating like in the 1960’s.
In an odd way, the fact that even in NASA, the agency responsible for one of the greatest achievements of mankind, that attitudes were like that, seems even more shocking that when seeing it through the towns.
The 3 main actresses are each compelling in their roles, and find means of creating moments of true displays of strength and challenge, whilst also progressing in one case, a moving love story as well.
The tale of NASA has so many times been based around their glorious achievements, but this film serves as a reminder of the true nature and background of parts of those successes and in this, may be the most important story of all about the history. It is a moving, enjoyable tale, that has a lot of historical importance, but also modern day relevance.
That’s what I thought – what about you? Have you seen it? Comment below and share your thoughts…