DEFCON 1 Reviews: ‘Hidden Figures’


DEFCON 1 Reviews: 'Hidden Figures'

Kieran Armstrong, Cub Reporter

(Spoiler Free)

Wow. Just wow. “Hidden Figures” was a tear jerking thrill ride that hit box offices like a 30 megaton rocket. The blockbuster starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae as three African American NASA logistics computers may not have changed my life, but it certainly shifted my perspective on NASA, intelligence, and the female mind. Let’s hit the afterburners and get right to it.

The Good Stuff

“Hidden Figures” excelled on many different fronts. The movie was smart, funny, socially aware, and it gave true insight into not only the struggle of black women, but also the strength of their sisterhood. The acting was phenomenal, the dialogue was realistic and the entire film was powerful. In a good way, the power was counterbalanced by the film’s emphasis on human nature and prejudice.

Empire of Three

The acting in “Hidden Figures” was phenomenal on virtually all fronts. The stars, of course, were the three best friends: Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), and Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson). The three of them had a chemistry about them that made their roles seem less like acting than everyday life.

Taraji P. Henson’s performance was especially powerful.Greater than any other character, Henson expressed the struggles of a woman, an African American, and a mathematician. Her acting made hearts glow with warmth at her happiest moments and break into tears at the climax of her struggles.

Octavia Spencer brought an entirely different profession to the field in “Hidden Figures”. She played Dorothy Vaughan, the unofficial director of a NASA unit full of female African American logistical computers. As she fought to be promoted to director, it was revealed that she was the real leader in the film. Spencer’s powerfully believable level headedness and confidence made her the film’s strongest character, and possibly her best quality was the way she looked out for those in her division. At one point in the movie, she finds out that technology is advancing and that computers will soon be able to replace human calculations. Octavia Spencer does an amazing job portraying how Dorothy Vaughan reacted to the situation.

Janelle Monae shone as Mary Johnson. She played well as the young, ambitious woman who held engineering as a passion higher than any other. Monae often provided comic relief, but most importantly, she acted as the inspiration to her two best friends, which was an important part of what drove them as far as they went. Monae’s performance was absolutely great, and I was beyond impressed.

Stellar Support

The underrated roles in “Hidden Figures” belong to the supporting cast, who did amazing jobs all around, whether they were helping the three protagonists achieve greatness or opposing them at every turn.

Kevin Costner did a fantastic job playing NASA director Al Harrison, a static and intelligent leader who was so focused on winning the space race that he had no time to focus on prejudice. He saw fire in Katherine Johnson, but she taught him that not being racist wasn’t enough; Costner’s hard lesson that he needed to act out against racism and sexism was what brought him to the utmost importance in “Hidden Figures”.

The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons also played a very important role in the film. Parsons played a fellow coworker of Katherine’s that was racist, sexist and intellectually envious but had no idea his prejudices existed. He opposed her at every turn and attempted to get her fired on multiple occasions, but, in the end, he was a key part of Katherine Johnson’s success.

Space Race

“Hidden Figures” was very much about race, and the issues faced by the protagonists were portrayed impressively and in a heart wrenching way. Particularly, I’d like to point out the bathroom sequence. If you haven’t seen “Hidden Figures” yet, be on the lookout for this scene (and grab a box of tissues). The NASA facility had no colored women’s’ restroom, so she had to run five miles during her lunch break just to use the restroom. *Kevin Costner was also fantastic in this sequence*

That scene and many others that gave commentary about the everyday hardships of these women and how difficult it was for them to keep working at NASA. It was their dream job, but Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson were in a position that would drive most people (especially of their level of intelligence) to quit. The plot and various displays of perseverance portrayed by fantastic actresses gave “Hidden Figures” its strength.

Unfortunately, like all movies (Except “Star Wars Episode V”), “Hidden Figures” was flawed.

Imitation Game

Now, as much as I enjoyed the humor and dialogue between the characters in “Hidden Figures”, I’ve got to say a lot of the dialogue seemed forced. Some of the jokes and explanations felt really scripted, especially the ones assigned to Janelle Monae. There were also a few instances where the jokes felt like they were imitating black humor instead of actually displaying black people being funny. Being a black dude, I’ve got to say that was pretty awkward.

The (too) Quiet Storm

I’ve done a little bit of research (a freakishly obsessive amount of research) on the actual events that “Hidden Figures” is based on, and I’m not happy with their portrayal of Katherine Johnson’s personality.

As it turns out, the real Katherine Johnson didn’t take nothin’ from nobody, and though she remained professional to keep her job, she didn’t have a problem counteracting an insult with a couple math equations that you’ve never heard of in your life.

In the movie, however, she rarely stands up for herself. Now, I understand it was the bottled up emotions idea that made the climax so emotionally satisfying, but there were opportunities for humor and “oh no she didn’t” moments that director Theodore Melfi could’ve avoided by staying true to the characters’ real personality.

The Verdict

“Hidden Figures” is already available on Google Play, iTunes and Blu-Ray and DVD, and I don’t think I’ve been more excited this year. The movie was fantastic, entertaining, and truly an emotional thrill ride. The acting, plot, and surprising realness displayed throughout the entire film really shed light on the struggles and vast accomplishments of African American women at NASA and in general. Though some of the dialogue was choppy and the accuracy to real life wasn’t always there, that’s kind of to be expected in movie interpretations of real life events. All in all, “Hidden Figures” was one of the best movies of the year and, honestly, one of the best I’ve ever seen. Hoorah for “Hidden Figures” (and I haven’t heard a title pun that good since “Race”)