Hidden Figures (2017) showcases the very best and very worst of 1960s America.

Set at a time when humanity looked to the stars with hope rather than around the world with fear, “Hidden Figures” is an uplifting true-life drama set during the space race at the height of the cold war.

It’s 1961 and NASA is lagging behind the Russians in the race to get a man into space. The complicated calculations required for spaceflight are carried out by ‘human computers’. Behind the scenes, a trio of African-American women find themselves pushing against the institutionalised racism and sexism of 1960s America in order to fulfil their potential and help win the space race.

As inspirational and heartening as the stories of Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P Henson) are, there’s a distasteful irony to the fact the themes and issues raised by the film remain shamefully resonant some half a century later.

There’s something encouraging about a film which unabashedly celebrates intelligence and expertise and while the film takes a few liberties with the actual events and individuals, the changes are modest to support the narrative flow of the film. The lead performances are sensational, helping to bring the social realism to life to match the lovingly recreated period details in the production design and costumes. The supporting cast, particularly Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst, are on form too, helping deliver an informative and entertaining biopic that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. If America is ever to rediscover its pioneer spirit and revive the American dream the world used to envy, it needs more stories like this and needs to make sure more hidden figures remain hidden no longer.


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