Review: ‘Hidden Figures’, Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe

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Movies have the ability to take stories based on true accounts and bring them to life. There are important stories largely untold, unheard of, and most unfortunately, aren’t even taught in school. You’d think a movie such as “Hidden Figures,” based on three African-American women who worked for NASA during America’s attempts to send a man to space would have been too important to have gone unnoticed. But here we are in 2016 with the first significant attempt to bring this story into the spotlight. “Hidden Figures” is inspirational and strikes a good balance. It touches upon important conversations and themes while being a tour de force of wonderful performances.

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are pushing racial and gender boundaries as NASA employees. In separate departments, the three friends make breakthroughs in the fields of math and engineering as the United States prepares to send John Glenn (Glen Powell) to space for the first time in a race against Russia. With so many roadblocks in their path, they persevere and excel all while they continue to fight harder than their white male and female colleagues to gain respect and achieve amazing things.

“Hidden Figures” is a wonderfully uplifting biographical fiction.  It has a phenomenal lead and supporting cast which includes Kevin Costner, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. But the focus remains on the film’s leading trio. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe bring their A-game and are forces to be reckoned with. Each of their characters is well-rounded, highly intelligent, and evolves over the course of the film. By the end, you’re really cheering them on.

There’s something fulfilling about seeing a movie like this. There’s nothing surprising about its finale, no twists and turns, but it’s special in its delivery of emotion and the choices it makes in regards to characters and storytelling. From the start, director and co-writer Theodore Melfi knows where he wants to take the story and is then able to develop the characters in a way that generates a fantastic emotional payoff.

“Hidden Figures” is compelling, full of heart, and engaging. It’s a transforming story that balances humor with drama. The lead characters are endearing and the supporting cast do a good job of playing important roles, but they never take away the spotlight from the leading ladies. The characters drive the plot and the storytelling is dignified, strong, and has an immensely satisfying ending. A must-see film that allows important themes to play out and is both heartwarming and motivational.

80%
80%
Wonderful

"Hidden Figures" is compelling, full of heart, and engaging. It's a transforming story that balances humor with drama. A must-see film that allows important themes to play out and is both heartwarming and motivational.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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