Based on a true story, Hidden Figures is a well-crafted inspirational film about a group of women who contributed significantly to the early American space program despite facing intense discrimination. Set in 1961 as the nascent NASA attempts to send the first American into space, it follows three African-American female mathematicians working at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia tasked with computing the flight trajectories of manned spacecraft. Due to the discriminatory norms and laws of the time, they were forced to work in a segregated division where it was practically impossible to move up the career ladder. Eventually, the main protagonist Katherine Goble Johnson, a brilliant mathematician played by Taraji P. Henson, breaks the color barrier by being permitted to work at the Space Task Group led by the tough director Al Harrison portrayed by Kevin Costner. She was allowed access out of necessity in order to catch up with the rapidly advancing Soviets who were the first to send a satellite and human into space. At the same time, the movie shows the struggles of Mary Jackson, portrayed by Janelle Monáe, who fights for her education to become an engineer, and Dorothy Vaughan, played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, who wants to be treated as an equal as a supervisor at NASA. Helping to round out the characters, the film also presents the women’s personal lives and how they cope with the immense pressures they experience at their stressful yet important jobs. Their vital contributions that ensure the safety of such astronauts as Alan Shepard and John Glenn seem to be readily dismissed simply because of their skin color and gender. Overall, I found it to be a must-see movie that provides an uplifting and historically relevant glimpse into the largely unknown role of African American women in such a quintessentially American success story as putting a man in space.
I’ll be interested in reading your review of Moonlight!