Hidden Figures (PG) – A Preview

Directed by Theodore Melfi, USA, 2016, 127 mins

With Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe & Kevin Costner

There is something uniquely satisfying about a film that is both educational and entertaining, and while Allison Schroeder’s screenplay takes considerable liberties with the facts of the matter, the central message of Hidden Figures remains a fascinating and overlooked facet of the race to space.

Once again, we are reminded of something which never ceases to shock, that within living memory the USA still had separate offices, and canteens, and toilets, and water fountains – all of them set aside for those of colour. Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe play three brilliant mathematicians set to work within those confines, intent on calculating how to get a man into space and back again, and the interplay between them is the delightful beating heart of the movie, notwithstanding some sterling support work from Kirsten Dunst and Kevin Costner.

The movie is not without its critics – not least for Costner’s role as white saviour – but this ignores the fundamental strength of character these brave, resolute and rather wonderful women demonstrated in quietly fighting prejudice by simply being the best in their field. A big budget, Hollywood crowd pleaser, perhaps, but the film still has its heart in the right place.

By David Vass

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