Hidden Figures (PG)

Nov 29, 2017
Cranbrook Film Society

Set in the early 1960’s when some of NASA’s best “computers” were African-American ladies in smart skirts: the maths behind the mission in the space race. In his pre-launch telephone call John Glenn did not trust the IBM computer but said, “Get the girl to check the numbers – if she says the numbers are good – I’m ready to go”. An inspiring and masterfully shot story of extraordinary minds and times.

Theodore Melfi | USA | 2016 | 127 mins | PG


Not since Sister Act has a film fronted by black women had quite the commercial impact of Hidden Figures, which has crashed through the $100 million barrier at the US box office and even scored a place on the Best Picture line-up. Underrate the star power of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe at your peril; by the end of their film, you’ll certainly be doffing your hat to the women they’re playing, too”. – Tim Robey.

Director Theodore Melfi tells a great story in this direct, colourful and crowd-pleasing film.  Like “American Graffiti” or the “The Help”, “Hidden Figures” is stylistic bordering on the kitsch with stunning costumes and period details.  It tells the story of African American womens’ contribution to the space race in America in the 1960s.  These women mathematicians, dubbed the coloured computers, checked the male engineers’ calculations. They later went on to man the IBM mainframe that took over their more mundane tasks. They worked in segregated Virginia against a background of prejudice and inequality, but in the film at least managed to be sassy, funny and hugely entertaining. The film script is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book which is a good read if you want to know more. You almost certainly will.  These women were finally acknowledged publicly at NASA during the Obama regime.

A great scene in the film comes early on.  The lead ladies, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are repairing the Chevy Impala in which they carpool. A white cop pulls over and ends up giving them a police escort to NASA. Mary’s comment on this is priceless – “Three negro women are chasing a white police officer down the highway in Hampton, Virginia, 1961,” quips Mary. “Ladies, that there is a God-ordained miracle!”

This is a light film that does not dwell overlong on injustice. It is a great evening’s entertainment with a serious underlying message that is laced with humour.



            Weighted vote 93.5%