Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Film Review: "Hidden Figures" (2016).

"Meet the women you don't know, behind the mission you do."
This is the premise for Hidden Figures. This biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. The film follows these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history's greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return.

In July 2015, it was announced that Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction book Hidden Figures was acquired by producer Donna Gigliotti. Which was then adapted by Allison Schroeder, which was developed by Gigliotti through Levantine Films. The film rights were acquired by Fox 2000 Pictures, while Theodore Melfi was signed on to direct. Since the film's development was announced, various actresses were considered to play the black female roles, including Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson. By March 216, the film was cast. Henson was cast in the lead role of mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson. Spencer was selected to play Dorothy Vaughan, the lead mathematician. Kevin Costner was cast in the film to play Al Harrison, the head of the space program. Singer Janelle Monáe signed on to play the third lead mathematician, Mary Jackson. Jim Parsons was cast in the film to play the head engineer of the Space Task Group at NASA, Paul Stafford. Kirsten Dunst, Glen Powell, and Mahershala Ali were cast in the film to play NASA supervisor Vivian Mitchell, astronaut John Glenn and military officer and Katherine Johnson's second husband Jim Johnson respectively. Principal photography began in March 2016, locations included Morehouse College campus in Atlanta, Georgia, and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas and Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia. In April 2016, Pharrell Williams came on board to write the film's songs and handle the music department and soundtrack with Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch.

The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell and Mahershala Ali. The cast gave solid performances, especially its leading ladies: Henson, Spencer and Monáe. All three of them carried the film forward effortlessly and each their own souls to their roles.

Despite suffering from standard Hollywood characterisations, dialogue and clichés, Hidden Figures is a worthy fact-based story with obvious good intentions. In its thematic and tonal approach, the film honestly shows 1960s America, where segregation existed and where the three real-life women were undermined and judged because of their sex and the colour of their skin in a white male dominated era. In the end, the film is entertaining enough. I suspect audiences are likely to enjoy it. The scenes of socio-political-human drama are skillfully acted, shot and directed.

Simon says Hidden Figures receives:

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