“Hidden Figures” is the untold true story of three African American women, who worked in the mathematics department at NASA, and used “The Right Stuff” to help them launch a man in space. These women consist of mathematician Katherine Johnson, and her two colleagues Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson; and in “Hidden Figures,” the movie shows us the troubles they went through (segregation) in order to get the numbers right.
Set in 1961 in Hampton, Virginia, Taraji P. Henson (as Katherine), Octavia Spencer (as Dorothy), and Janelle Monae (as Mary) all give uniformially fine performances, as each of them struggle to adapt to their department. One issue, for example, which really got me going, is how the colored ladies room is far from her desk, and runs back and forth day after day. When Henson explodes about her issue, you can tell that’s powerful acting.
The Russians have beaten the Americans with their first man in space, and there a step behind. But they still prepare for their astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) to orbit the Earth, and Katherine shows them the right numbers to get the job done right.
Among this terrific cast, Kevin Costner is the director of the Space Task Group, who starts to appreciate Katherine’s numbers. Jim Parsons (TV’s “The Big Bang Theory”) is the head engineer, who gives her difficult numbers. Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) is a soldier, who becomes Katherine’s dreamboat, long after her husband passed on. And Kristen Dunst is Dorothy’s strict, but good-natured supervisor.
Directed by Theodore Melfi, “Hidden Figures” has the kind of groove, style, and narrative these three women deserve. I may get its numbers, but with Henson, Spencer, and Monae igniting the screen, and two African American masterpieces: “Fences” and “Moonlight,” this year’s Oscars won’t be racist.