As a historical movie, Hidden Figures was amazing. Telling the story of three African-American women trying to make it at NASA in the 1960s certainly makes for a compelling historical narrative. As a theater experience, you shouldn’t expect it to be a thriller. To me, it seemed like there was no real climax. Every movie of today has a climax. Rising and falling action is the age-old formula for any great story, and Hidden Figures did not emphasize this. Everything was consistently on the same level of tension. (Minor spoilers for the rest of this paragraph) Because there were so many launches of rockets in the film, by the time it came to the last launch, which was supposed to be the climactic launch, I was already desensitized to the idea. It felt safe, it felt like everything was going to be okay, just as it had been in previous scenes.
The cast, led by Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, was stellar. Also starring were Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. All three of these phenomenal actresses portrayed characters that not only challenged the stereotypes of African-Americans in the 1960s, but also the role of women in a male-dominated industry. This film handled both types of segregation by highlighting the ways in which these three women broke through and showed that white males aren’t the only people who can succeed at NASA. As predictable as their stories were, they were impossible not to root for as they dodged every obstacle hurled at them and took control of their own destinies.
As far as atmosphere goes, the historical setting was great. The film had great use of modern music emulating the old styles, and included classic cars that really set the time period. I felt transported back to the 1960s as every prop, every set piece, every early computer and every segregated bathroom was a reminder of what exactly our protagonists had to live with. The cinematography was actually quite good, especially with the inclusion of the visual effects in the space scenes. If this movie left me with one visual aspect that stood out as the best, it was the flawless transition from historical footage to footage shot for this movie. I really enjoyed seeing these early videos brought to life in a modern setting, and they really helped keep me captivated.
From such a remarkable story comes a middle-of-the-road movie that I was glad I saw, but once was enough. The issues tackled were extremely relevant, especially in our current political state, but the movie never really established its own tone. It just felt bittersweet in the end. Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely. Not for nail-biting drama, but for the quality of its casting and the importance of its story as history.