“This film is about unity. We stand here a proud actors thanking every member of this incredible guild, for voting for [us] for recognizing our hard work…the shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson. Without them we would not know how to reach the stars, these women did not complain about the problems, their circumstances, you know the issues – we know what was going on in that era, they didn’t complain. They focused on solutions therefore these brave women helped men into space. We cannot forget the brave men that also worked with us… this story is of unity, this story is of what happens when we put our differences aside we come together as a human race we win, love wins every time.”
Taraji P. Henson Speech at 23rd Annual SAG Awards, she plays Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures

In an all-star cast for Theodore Spencer’s film Hidden Figures, Taraji P. Henson plays mathematician Katherine Johnson alongside Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe who play Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, NASA scientists who were a factor in sending astronaut John Glenn (the first American to orbit the Earth) into space in 1962.

The release couldn’t have come at a better time in February 2017 when social challenges arose once more since President Donald J. Trump took his seat at the White House. News shows the rejection, riots and peaceful protests of those disagreeing with the results.

It is no surprise these three versatile actresses brought in a large audience who approached this film with a mix of excitement and interest. The film highlights African American womens’ contribution to the American Space Programme. Asking the average person about America’s politics and science it is obvious these women are not recognised for their achievements. It is only in recent years that President Barak Obama awarded former mathematician Katherine Johnson with the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ on Tuesday November 24th 2015, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington.

Releasing minimal teasers and trailers, one of the reasons this movie brought in audiences is because of the film history of the actors and actresses. Taraji is best known for her portrayal of ‘Cookie Lyon’ in the successful American drama Empire, a show focusing on Black artists and musicians of different financial backgrounds. The show is praised for speaking of the struggle surrounding minority groups in the American music industry. She also starred in Will Smith’s remake of The Karate Kid. The character in this film is completely opposite to to how audiences recognise her on their TV screens. Katherine is portrayed as a timid, shy woman – it becomes obvious most of the focus will be her character.

Even though the three women have their own personalities, the film attempts to balance showing family life as well as a career. This was nicely done considering the length of the film. At times you cannot help but be aware scenes were obviously edited due time constraints, which makes you question if some scenes were relevant to the overall story?  However those scenes are minimal and quick, including the focus on Katherine’s relationship with Colonel Jim Johnson played by popular Golden Globe nominee Mahershala Ali. Up until 2017, Ali has been nominated for numerous awards for the Oscar Winning film Moonlight. He won the Screen Actors Guild Award for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role’. Ali’s winning speech, much like Taraji’s, was political in tone.

Nevertheless Taraji does a brilliant job playing her character supported by strong actresses in supporting roles. Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughn) is also an Oscar award winning actress, who starred alongside Viola Davis in Kathryn Stockett’s film adaptation of the book The Help. Janelle Monae gives a riveting performance as Mary Jackson. She has only starred in two feature films including this one and Moonlight. I’m sure the audience will look forward to her upcoming performances.

Overall the movie is enjoyable and holds the audience’s attention with quick-witted lines and powerful scenes. The intention of the film is to show discrimination and racism, and the affect it had on Black American women in the 1960s. There are powerful scenes that had audiences gasping and shedding a tear. At moments there was a sense that these scenes were intended to have a powerful impact, and had a slightly bitter undertone. Some of the issues addressed, like police brutality and the discrimination in southern law, are glossed over. The film is trying to maintain its PG rating. Never the less the performances are outstanding and something to look forward to.

Hidden Figures. Director Theodore Spencer, released 2017.

Tahera Begum

Tahera Begum

Tahera was born in London and lives there still. She would like to live in Canada one day and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She has a passion for history and has experience in teaching at various museums. This in turn helps her with her current role as a teacher at a supplementary school. With her fondness for reading, she would like to pursue a career in teaching English Literature. Her interest lies in playing video games and watching foreign films.