Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hidden Figures, mini movie review

Rating: A-

Hidden Figures, based on a true story, takes place in 1961 during the great Space Race.  A race between America and the Soviet Union, two opposing forces during the Cold War.    The Russians beat us by getting the first satellite Sputnik, a monkey, and a man to space.  How were we to compete?  How were we to catch up?  With so many movies and shows centering around this time period the focus tends to be on the astronauts themselves, such as The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, and the Astronaut Wives Club.  Rarely do we see the challenges that scientists, engineers, and computers faced while helping those astronauts get into space.

When I talk about computers I don't mean electrical devices making the calculations NASA needs, but actual human beings who are brilliant mathematicians.  Before the IBM 7090 was installed and operating at NASA, a computer the size of a giant room with less capabilities than our modern cell phones, calculations had to be made by human genius.

Katherine Goble is one of these geniuses.  She works in the West Area Computers division, a group of female Africa-American mathematicians, with Mary Jackson, who wants to become an engineer, and Dorothy Vaughan, who wishes her supervising position was permanent and official.  These women face not only 1960 social norms with females and racial segregation, but also finding a way to remain employable at NASA while technological computers threatens to replace human computers.

The true climax comes during Mercury 7's Friendship 7 flight with John Glenn, who is unsure if he'll be able to make a full orbit around the Earth, which is something the Russians have not yet accomplished.  (And I think by this point I've spoiled too much, if you don't know history).

As with most "Based on True Story" movies there's a lot of changes.  Mainly with the compression of events.  If this was a completely true story everything would take place between 1953-1962, and a whole lot of the plot would be different as well, taking proper timeline into account.  I mention this because some of the things that are portrayed didn't happen as scripted, but then if we want a true retailing we wouldn't be able to see it in a two hour movie, and the tension created by certain plot points wouldn't by there as well. 

With that said Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan are all inspirational women, and what they accomplished is remarkable.  This film does them justice, and I'm glad to see their stories told.

In the end Hidden Figures is a great inspiration with solid acting, directing, editing, cinematography, and so forth.

MPAA: Rated PG for thematic elements and some language.

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