Throughout my time at college (UK college, not USA) I had the pleasure to study the gripping story of the Civil Rights Movement with the United Statea from the late 1800s to the end of the 1960s. It was a topic I found to be so fascinating that to this day it still resonates within me. With tales such as the Freedom Rides in Alabama to the enrolment of 9 Black pupils to a school in Little Rock, Arkansas, each human story showed the levels of bravery certain individuals were willing to go to in order to achieve the Human Rights they so rightly deserved.
So, with this in mind, you can imagine my joy to hear about a story highlighting this inexplicable period of modern history was to be produced, especially during a time where our social views have rotated clockwise in more of a way than I would have hoped for. “Hidden Figures” tried to do what so many have failed to do before: deliver a message in a way that does feels less of a lecture, and more of an experience.
Round 1 – Story
Based on the unbelievable true life stories of three African-American women, “Hidden Figures” follows 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.
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.
Theodore Melfi’s adaptation of Katherine Johnson’s inspirational story manages to create an emotionally competent story without ever feeling the need to evoke sympathy for the characters within it. Instead, the actors are given the freedom to express themselves in such a way that compliments the story exceptionally. What really held my attention throughout this story was the inevitable success this hard work would bring. I knew that John Glen would survive his mission in to space, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know the suffering and difficulty faced in the run-up to this momentous occasion.
ROUND 1 SCORE: 9/10
Round 2 – Characters
As with the majority of movies designed to attract the attention of the Academy Awards, “Hidden Figures” is a character driven story telling the tale of repression, resentment and rejoice. Without these elements it would be difficult to expect any form of positive recognition by their peers. It goes without saying, but this is on display in abundance!
Performances from Taraji P. Henderson, Janelle Monáe and the joyfully callous Octavia Spencer highlights just how successful a story of this nature can be without ever needing to beg for an excuse to so. All too often are movies of this nature created to generate attention towards either those involved, or the story in which it tells. In spite of this, the characters of “Hidden Figures” chose not to sulk and dismay towards the circumstances they found themselves in. They instead made the decision to embrace and enjoy the life they were living, and push for as hard and as long as possible before smashing through that Glass Ceiling so unfairly placed above them.
Intriguing character development is seldom seen in most Hollywood franchise makers these days. With titles such as Justice League and Star Wars able to raise awareness by the mere mention of their name, it has become common to focus more on entertainment than actual storytelling. Movies such as “Hidden Figures” and “La La Land” are perfect examples of how far a character can grow from the beginning to end without ever having to stop and readjust it’s footing in between acts.
ROUND 2 SCORE: 9/10
Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment
It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to deduce that I found “Hidden Figures” to be a highly enjoyable movie. It has been known for some movies of this ilk to be bland, tasteless affairs that feel more of a reason to be guilty than anything else. However throughout this film it felt more to me as a celebration of the characters within this history instead of a detailed account of every harrowing incident that tragically befell them.
Henderson’s portrayal of Katherine Johnson was passive but determined to achieve the greater good of the country. Monáe’s resilience and dedication as Mary Jackson highlighted her sheer ambition to achieve her goals (hats off to the scene in the courtroom, that was some monologue!) And finally, the unconditionally brilliant performance of Octavia Spencer.
I have loved Octavia Spencer since that brilliant scene in The Help where… I had better not actually. Her ability to bring such gravitas to the credibility of this film that would have otherwise been missing cannot be understated. Her performance as the head-strong Mother willing to do what it takes to bring her boys up with respect while at the same time achieve her own private aims blew me away. Her confrontations were seamless, her execution was precise, and her likability made for highly entertaining viewing throughout.
“Hidden Figures” is a fun, adventurous movie that propels its stars in to Orbit through its hard work, effortless calculations and willingness to enjoy the golden moments of it’s time on screen
ROUND 3 SCORE: 9/10
Final Score – Hidden Figures wins by decision 27/30
Have you seen Hidden Figures yet? How would you score this contest? Be sure to let me know in the comments and don’t be afraid to say Hi on Facebook or Twitter.