Film review: Hidden Figures delivers as an uplifting biopic

Hidden Figures it out in cinemas now.

Hidden Figures it out in cinemas now. - Credit: Archant

Nominated for best picture at this years Oscars, Hidden Figures is the real life account of a group of African American women who were employed by NASA for their mathematical prowess during the space race of the 1960s.

Known as ‘human computers’ the film focuses on the vital role played by three members of the group Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson and their battle to overcome both racism and sexism within NASA and the wider world.

Unlike some biopics, this is not the plodding retelling of events you might expect. The film has a lightness of tone that contradicts its serious themes and it zips along at pace that keeps the viewer engaged at all times.

Octavia Spencer is Oscar nominated for her role as Dorothy Vaughan and it’s not hard to see why. Her fight to be properly recognised as supervisor of her department is a captivating story thread.

Taraji Henson is also excellent in her role as Katherine Johnson. So good in fact, that it is surprising that she wasn’t also Oscar nominated.


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Her mad dashes across campus to the only ‘Coloured Ladies’ bathroom are played to perfection. Beginning as comedic, they eventually become heartbreaking as she incurs the wrath of boss Kevin Costner.

Costner’s character is ultimately a sympathetic figure and he is perfectly cast in the role.

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The closest the film has to a villain is Johnson’s colleague Paul Stafford, played by Jim Parsons (Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory) but it is here where the casting slips up. Parsons is an undoubtedly good comedic performer, however he’s given nothing to get his teeth into here as he’s asked to play it completely straight and never really convinces.

Director Theodore Melfi successfully blends the films heavy themes with a less weighty tone and produces a film that is never boring.

The film very much focuses on the personal battles of the lead characters and avoids getting bogged down in the complicated mathematics.

Scenes between the female leads are particularly enjoyable, showing off their great chemistry and making this a really fun film you can recommend to both young and old.

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