Hidden Figures shoots for the stars as one of the most relevant films today.
The film is based on the true stories
of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn, the very people that
made it possible for America to compete in the 1960s Space Race. It was such a
big deal, as said in the film, since whoever makes a successful space voyage
first gets to dictate the rules.
Hidden Figures is more than that, of course. It's a film that shows what it was like to live as an African-American in a 1960s landscape of America, where a colored person could get arrested just for simply having a different skin color. African-Americans at the time had limited work opportunities, limited access to information, limited freedom, and even the use of bathrooms were segregated by race. The sight alone of an African-American touching the coffee dispenser and the aghast reactions from all who witnessed the act are some of the touchiest subjects that the films covers.
Beyond that, it shows us what word "computer" means to a person who does all the damn math. This is before IBM and electronic computers started taking over human mathematicians and proves that amazing innovations can come from diverse places. Oh, prejudice lives on in every corner of the film, but it also shows that there are people who try to accept the changing times.
Sounds like heavy stuff, right? It is. And yet the film does it with charm and finesse.
Instead of making you shed tears of
blood, Hidden Figures makes things
fun with witty catchphrases, upbeat modern music by Hans Zimmer, Benjamin
Wallfisch, and Pharrell Williams, and sweet moments in the midst of oppression.
Of course, things were a little different in real life. But we're not
watching real life as it unfolds, are we? In a way, Hidden Figures is about real-life superheroes, the underdogs who
rose above it all. That brick wall I mentioned earlier? They didn't find a way
around it, they didn't go over it, they smashed through it with sass.
It shows the lives of the three protagonists inside their work in the Langley Research Center (which is NASA's oldest field center), but it also delves into the more personal lives of the three women by adding scenes with their families as they try to make the best of what they have and how they overcame the challenges that hit them like solid brick walls. It's a film that tries to convince us of the ancient phrase, "If there is a will, there is a way."