The untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA and serving as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history – the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.
|Release Date||:||December 10, 2016|
|Production Co.||:||Fox 2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Levantine Films|
|Production Countries||:||United States of America|
|Director||:||Gail Hunter, Theodore Melfi|
|Writers||:||Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, Margot Lee Shetterly|
|Casts||:||Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali, Donna Biscoe, Rhoda Griffis, Maria Howell, Aldis Hodge, Gary Weeks, Saniyya Sidney, Kimberly Quinn, Olek Krupa, Kurt Krause, Ariana Neal, Corey Mendell Parker, Karan Kendrick, Jaiden Kaine, Gregory Alan Williams, Dane Davenport, Travis Smith, Scott Michael Morgan, Robert McKay, Ken Strunk, Lidya Jewett, Zani Jones Mbayise, Tre Stokes, Selah Kimbro Jones, Ashton Tyler, Alkoya Brunson, Arnell Powell, Crystal Lee Brown, Tequilla Whitfield, Evan Holtzman, Joe Hardy Jr., Addison Rose Melfi, Paige Nicollette, Kate Kneeland|
|Plot Keywords||:||nasa, sexism, biography, mathematics, racial segregation, racism, scientist, space race, black woman, u.s. space program, discrimination, 1960s|
Hidden Figures Reviews
- Punches all my buttons: segregation, space, engineering, computersby 7 January 2017on
210 out of 285 people found the following review useful:
I'm an engineer. I designed computers, I grew up in the south during the 1950s and 1960s. I was heavily involved in the space race at an early age and watched every launch and recovery on black-and-white TV. I never saw separate restrooms and drinking fountains for "colored" but they were there. I never rode on segregated public buses, but they were there and I knew it. This movie, "Hidden Figures," brings all of these worlds back to me. No, it's not a painstakingly accurate picture. NASA didn't have flat-panel screens back then. Communications between the ground and the Mercury capsules were not static-free. But a lot of this movie feels real. Very real.
The protagonists in this movie are three women of color working in one of the most unwelcoming environments they might hope to find: NASA Langley, Virginia, in 1961. As women, they were employed as human "computers" because they were less expensive and they got their numbers right. As "colored" folk, they got their own separate (and sparse) restrooms and their own, separate dining facilities. This was not America's shining hour, even in some place as lofty as NASA.
At the same time, civil unrest was rising in the towns. This is the time of Martin Luther King's rise to prominence. It's a time just before the rise of militant civil rights groups. It's a time when resistance to segregation and discrimination was still civil, but as the movie shows, that resistance was beginning to firm up and become widespread.
There are several reasons to see this movie: from a civil rights perspective; from a feminism perspective; from the perspective of the early space race when we lagged the Soviet Union, badly. If you lived during this time, see the movie to remember. If you were born later, see this movie to see what things were like.
- Major Feel-Good Movie, just gets better as it goes alongby 12 January 2017on
150 out of 202 people found the following review useful:
In the opinion of this reviewer, an extraordinary achievement.
The characters on which the film is based were special and unique on their own, and well deserving of the sort of semi-documentary films that Hollywood likes to serve up.
However, to take that story and bump it up to a major "feel-good film" that engages the viewer from the getgo and does not let up until the very end of its 2 hour and 5 minute running time, THAT is what elevates this project to greatness.
I want to be clear on this because it is important. There are two ways to do a feel-good film. One is (ironically!) by the numbers, using proved plot arcs and other script devices to make it work. An example of this for example is the latest Disney release MOANA which has taken some heat from critics for being derivative and not original. But that, you see, is the tried and true method to achieve the effect that the producers wanted. And it works.
The other way to make a film engaging and fun is to use your instincts and your actors to get the most from each scene. No rule book, no fixed way of doing a scene, just doing what works. This is, I believe the way that writer/director Theodore Melfi set out to do Hidden Figures, and boy did he pull it off! The acting is stellar. Costner has matured in his latest film roles and his work here is as far from the nonsense he used to do (like the dreaded Robin Hood) as the earth is from the sun.
Taraji P. Henson finally lands a great role, the kind of role she was looking for when she left the hit series Person of Interest a tad early.
And every good film or TV series needs a character who is "the glue" or a reference point that the viewer can use, like a compass needle, to see where we are in the main story. Here Octavia Spencer gives the performance of her life as that "glue" and helps the director to pace the film.
- Don't let "Hidden Figures" be a hidden treasure!by 13 January 2017on
117 out of 166 people found the following review useful:
Appreciation. It's a condition which requires information and understanding and results in increased compassion, acceptance and inclusiveness. There are few ways to enhance appreciation for others more effectively than a well-made movie and the 2016 historical drama "Hidden Figures" (PG, 2:07) takes full advantage of that opportunity. Without being too busy or too preachy, this film helps the audience better appreciate the struggles of being a minority and a working woman (and even a mother working outside the home) in the early 1960s, the pressure involved in competing with the Soviet Union in the early years of the space race, the difficult challenges surrounding getting man into space (and returning him safely to earth) for the first time and the courage it required of those who were willing to go. That's a lot for one movie and might be too much for many but "Hidden Figures" is up to the challenge.
The film is an adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly's book of the same name and follows three black women who worked in NASA's computer section in 1961. That's not to say that they worked on computers THEY were the computers. Back when electronic computers (with only a fraction of the capacity and speed of today's mainframes) took up an entire room and were just beginning to be installed in places like NASA talented mathematicians did calculations for the space program by hand.
Dorothy Vaughn (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) is a mathematician who is also mechanically-inclined, develops a talent for programming IBM computers and is a natural leader, but is denied a well-deserved supervisory position by NASA culture and her supervisor (Kirsten Dunst). Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is a brilliant mathematician who struggles to balance the demands of her increasing responsibilities at NASA with caring for her three young daughters whose father has passed away. Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) is an outspoken aspiring engineer who is held back from becoming an actual engineer because of her lack of education, which she has difficulty overcoming because of segregation.
All three women make progress in their attempts to reach their goals and fulfill their potential, but with much difficulty, based on their gender and their race. Dorothy has been managing the women of the computer section for some time, but has to fight for the title and the pay and even takes it upon herself to learn more about NASA's newly-arrived IBM computer, while understanding that doing so could eventually cost her and her co-workers their jobs. Mary continues to make valuable contributions to NASA's efforts, while trying to work through the catch-22 of needing additional education to become an engineer, with the only nearby school offering such classes refusing to accept any black students.
But most of the screen time belongs to Katherine's story. As the most talented mathematician of all of NASA's human computers, she is called up to work in NASA's Space Task Group where she works directly with the standoffish Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) and is supervised by the group's director, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). Even as Katherine continues to demonstrate her capabilities, she is still subjected to drinking coffee from a pot labeled "Colored" and having to walk 20 minutes (each way) to the building where the nearest restroom for black females is located. Eventually, she earns the respect of her peers and comes to the attention of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) himself, who comes to trust her calculations above all others. Katherine also attracts a different kind of attention from the commander of a local Army Reserve base, Lt. Col. Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali), who is also single. Embodying the dual meaning of the movie's title, Katherine works out the hidden figures needed for Glenn's mission and Jim doesn't mind that her figure is hidden beneath those unflattering 1960s dresses, as he comes to care more about her heart and the very sharp mind hidden behind her even less flattering eye glasses.
"Hidden Figures" is a marvelously entertaining film. The script adaptation by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi tells its true story accurately and engagingly, weaving its many story lines together seamlessly, educating and entertaining their audience throughout. Melfi also directs and uses his talented and award-worthy cast to thrill us, to make us cheer and give us moments of humor and just plain fun. I was impressed at how much this movie packed in without seeming cluttered, how much it affected me emotionally without being manipulative, and how much appreciation I gained for these women, their struggles and the importance of the times in which they lived and accomplished so much. It's also surprising that so little has been widely known about these women until now. Don't let "Hidden Figures" be a hidden treasure. See it soon! It's out of this world. "A+"
- It made for an old-fashioned movie going experience...by 22 January 2017on
82 out of 118 people found the following review useful:
This is the true story of three African-American women who worked for NASA on the Mercury program in the early 1960s. Solid performances by all, some laugh-out-loud scenes, and some very emotional moments. It's also an important look back at the civil rights issues of the time period. The climax is a bit Apollo 13ish, and I'm fairly certain some scenes were embellished, but who cares. You should walk away from this film smiling, maybe even a bit choked up.
You don't need to understand the mathematics to enjoy the film, but I admit, it was fun to hear some concepts I haven't heard since my college days.
The theater was almost full, with people of all ages. I was particularly happy to see some kids there, as there is much for them to take away from this film.
Twice during the movie the audience broke into applause, and then applauded at the end credits as well. I don't recall the last time I heard that at a film. And most importantly - I did not see a cell phone light up the whole time - truly a miracle.
- Good movie but, sadly, Hollywood must tinker with factsby 23 January 2017on
71 out of 98 people found the following review useful:
I really enjoyed watching Hidden Figures. The story was compelling and laid out neatly for our viewing pleasure. It shone a spotlight on a part of history with which I wasn't familiar. And, most importantly, it made me want to learn more about Katherine Goble Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan. What a shame the screenwriters felt they had to preach at me about racism rather than just tell the true story of these amazing and talented women. They weren't amazing and talented "in spite" of being black or "in spite" of being women, they were just amazing and talented in their own right. One day, perhaps, Hollywood will get a clue and give audiences credit for having a brain.
Much of the atmosphere of racism in the movie did not ring true for me. In many cases it didn't even make sense, so I looked into it. The first question I had for the internet was "Did Katherine Goble have to run half a mile to use a bathroom on the NASA complex?" The answer is no. For more info on the conditions and life of Katherine Johnson check out the interview with her here: https://youtu.be/r8gJqKyIGhE. In particular check out 11:49 where she says she "didn't feel segregation". Everyone was working. The job was important and they weren't going to jeopardize the mission with foolish racist antics. She was part of a team. I would've liked to have heard so much more about Katherine and her mind and work, less about the social issues of the 1960s!
I understand screenwriters have to condense a large amount of information into a couple of hours but the ham-handed and, let's be honest, false representation of racism at NASA and the treatment of these women was a repeated and unwelcome intrusion into what should have been a very interesting and educational movie about such remarkable women. For example: I strongly suspect Katherine Goble never, ever would have been so unprofessional as to scream at her boss and co-workers like she does in what Hollywood probably sees as a "cathartic" scene. It was completely out of character and a distraction from what should have been the real story, that of Katherine's accomplishments. Goble was a conscientious and intelligent woman who would've never done such a thing which, to my way of thinking, says a lot more about her than this silly, manufactured scene.
But I don't want to run the risk of being just as ham-handed in my review and I'll leave my criticism at that. I'll only add, don't let the prospect of being bludgeoned by an anti-racism message keep you from going to see Hidden Figures.
- Evident Heroism, Hidden Doubtsby 18 January 2017on
63 out of 93 people found the following review useful:
This is one of those "based on true events" films that the moment you return from the theater you're going to hop on the internet and explore the story. That's a good sigh. Unfortunately, here the need to do some fact checking might not stem from all the right reasons.
Hidden Figures is an upbeat, inspiring tale about the role three African-American women played in the NASA program during the early 60's. First Katherine Johnson (Henson), our lead, a gifted mathematician and human computer trying to carve out a roll in the Space Test Group. Second, Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer), leader of the "colored computers." She wants both the supervisor title she deserves and to survive the transition to IBM's mechanical computers. Finally Mary Jackson (Monae), who is trying to overcome discriminatory policies to become NASA's first female engineer. These women must meet challenges in the workplace then return home to more struggles African-Americans were fighting nationwide.
Having the performances to anchor your character drama goes along way. Henson is solid, but Spencer is Oscar worthy and Monae's performance is part of a spectacular 2016. I will be on the lookout for more from this talent. Kudos to the supporting roles played by Ali and Costner. Beyond the highlight performances, the scenario is well worth a shot. We have seen heroes fighting against segregation. We have seen space race movies. The mix presents America at its finest and most appalling. A cute combo. The woman at the core are also very deserving of a chance in the sun. The problems creep in with presentation. The director/writer Melfi and co-writer Schroeder were clearly unsatisfied with the quiet, real nobility with which these woman conducted themselves. I cannot say if what the creators did is ethical, but the addition of obviously manufactured drama was a damning decision. This leads to some awkward trust issues. After watching some Hollywood like Johnson erupting at her boss's boss, it becomes more difficult to believe in the little things. Did Johnson really need to run a half a mile just to use the restroom? Or even the climax. On the day of the launch, did John Glenn trust Johnson's calculations over the IBM? It turns out only one of these inclusions are factual. Not the one you think, and perhaps the true story demonstrates more bravery.
I'm not going to share any more of my digging here. Others asked the same questions and the answers are readily available. The point is after I watched Hidden Figures I wanted to learn if I had been lied too. Sad, because doubts are not what stories this wonderful deserve. Beyond this major stumble, Hidden Figures is well worth anyone's time. Educational, but entertaining. Positive without preachy. Family friendly in a genuine way. At the theater, I sat next to a nineish year old who kept asking her mother questions. The daughter was interested and wanted to follow every detail. The mother gave brisk answers not wanting to miss a moment. That's a true event, I swear, and the best praise for Hidden Figures I can muster.
- Lacking subtlety.by 28 January 2017on
90 out of 151 people found the following review useful:
Easy on the eye but not worthy of the hype and the Oscar nomination. An interesting story has been directed in a very heavy handed way, which to me was constantly irritating. Almost every scene is overstated to the point that, as others have said, there is a propaganda feel to the film. Did the director really need to portray every white person, bar two, as vigorously racist or anti-women, even though virtually all the characters are clearly intelligent and from well educated backgrounds? This is a film where the message would have been stronger and more credible if a degree of balance and subtlety had been added to the mix. The things I enjoyed: some strong performances by a very capable cast, a very authentic period setting, a story which is totally engaging. The thing which turned me off: the exaggeration.
- Excellent representation of the 60'sby 13 January 2017on
72 out of 122 people found the following review useful:
A well told story of the 60's - fashion, seriousness of the space competition, but more importantly the contributions of 3 women in a time where they were not even given the credit of having a brain. Why this has not been known for many, many years - that is a sad state. Thank heaven the daughter wrote the book and these women will have the credit they so deserved. A good showing of the discrimination shown the black people in the 60's - it was well represented but the story took front page. I love these women - they were mothers, wives and eventually recognized as experts in their field of math and coding. I grew up in the late 50 and 60's - so impressive that the three did not let anything hold them back. They did it quietly and with respected results - but this story should have been told in the 60's. The acting is excellent, the sets are so believable, the culture is there - thank you Theodore Malfi for a an entertaining and educational film. And Pharrell for the music.
- History Dumbed Downby 21 January 2017on
137 out of 258 people found the following review useful:
Engineers and adding-machine operators (called "computers") working at NASA in the early 1960's included a few black women. Since the Civil Rights movement was only beginning, and NASA was located in southern regions of the US, these women were subject to legal discrimination. "Hidden Figures" follows the careers of some of these women. But it does this in a heavy-handed, formulaic way.
Ever since "The Ugly Duckling" of Hans Christian Anderson, the formula has been predictable: a member of a despised minority is grudgingly admitted into a previously exclusive activity. Will the minority figure excel in the new position, or will he/she fail miserably, justifying the prejudices of the ruling class? Telling you the answer would be a spoiler, so you'll have to guess it for yourselves, but it's not too difficult.
In "Hidden Figures", all the whites are bigots (except for John Glenn and one department head), and all the blacks are hard-working, clean, patriotic moral wonders. This is history dumbed down to junior high-school level. The heroine, a mathematically gifted black widow has managed to stay chaste and raise three perfect children while handling a difficult job under trying conditions. The other characters are no more believable.
The period detail is mostly well done, with electric typewriters and glass-knobbed coffee percolators. But in the early '60s, all engineers would have carried slide rules, the way doctors wear stethoscopes. There are none to be seen here. Also, any time the heroine wants to work out a mathematical problem, she has to climb a ladder and write it out on a large blackboard. Scrap paper existed in the '60s.
If you want to watch a simple-minded morality play rather than a movie, history reduced to the level of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer", then "Hidden Figures" is for you.
- Dealing with segregation does not necessarily make a good movieby 23 February 2017on
17 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
For his second feature film, Theodore Melfi tries this time to deal with a more serious topic: the role of black women in the American society in early 60's. This is how we meet Katherine Goble, a gifted woman, working as a "computer" in the Langley Research Center and two of her colleagues and friends Mary Jackson, yearning for a engineer position and Dorothy Vaughan an unofficial supervisor. All along the movie, we will see how women had to work hard to establish theirselves and gain recognition in the male-dominated engineering world.
This is for the plot, now let's go deeper into this movie. Actually, there is nothing fundamentally wrong in this movie, everything is just OK. But making a film about segregation and misogyny does not make necessarily a good movie. And here is the evidence. During the two hours of this movie we will witness all forms of discrimination but nothing more that we've seen dozens of times. Unlike some other movies, such as Fences for example, where these sensitive topics were dealt with subtlety we are here just talking about discrimination to give substance to the movie.
That aside, the story behind the movie aims to show the work of NASA engineers and computers during the 60's star wars between Americans and Russians. Once again, in order to wow the spectators, characters just throw us mathematical formulas and spatial jargon all along the movie. But when you have a better look on it you can just see trivia or nonsense formulas. It is a common way in movies to try to impress spectators with non sense jargon, and this movie is not an exception.
Eventually, there are all the same some good things with this movie. It allows us to have a better understanding about these hidden figures who were at the root of American space conquest and it is also a way to acknowledge the value of their work. Besides the acting and the filmmaking are good enough.
To conclude, even though the screen writing remains interesting I think that this story would have been a better documentary than a movie.
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