Hidden Figures Should Be Showing On Your Movie Radar

If You’ve Been Asking Yourself What To Watch Next, Hidden Figures Is It


John Fiorino, Entertainment Editor

In life, there are times when people have to prove what they can do. For some, that involves sports, singing or acting. For others, it includes predicting the trajectory of an astronaut in re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

In “Hidden Figures,” the untold stories of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are told. These three African-American women were part of NASA at the time of the space race in the 1960’s. After Russia successfully becomes the first country to put a man in orbit, the pressure builds on America to come up with an answer to the competition.

While working together, the three women are pursuing different end goals. Johnson is pursuing mathematics, Vaughn craves a supervisor position in the tech department and Jackson is striving for the required classes she needs to become an engineer. The three deal with all types of discrimination from where to stand to how to speak to their superiors. With segregation still very much in play in Virginia, it is not surprising that they had to overcome so much judgment in a predominantly white, male career just to get noticed, let alone promoted.

Theodore Melfi, who is still fairly new to the industry, is the director, writer and producer. He has worked on a total of five projects but was director, writer and producer for only one other movie; that being “St. Vincent.” Melfi won the Truly Moving Picture Award at the Heartland Film Festival in 2014 for “St. Vincent.”

In some films, the music can be just as important as acting. With world-renowned composer, Hans Zimmer, at the helm, the music matched each scene flawlessly. When Johnson would run back and forth between her objectives, fast, lighthearted music set the tone. However, in the late hours of the night with the whole team in the office trying to defeat the Russians on the next task, dramatic, slow music ensued, in order to stress how important this was to the Americans. The music really drove this message home, and that the Americans would not go quietly.

Another strong move from Melfi was his decision making on lighting. Although lighting might not seem like a major aspect to a movie that is more focused around the space race and the story arc of three characters, lighting can really set the mood for a momentum shifting scene in a movie.

An example of this in “Hidden Figures,” avoiding spoilers, is when Henson tries to persuade her supervisors, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) and Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), to go into a restricted meeting as it would benefit her work. After she asks, the camera pans to the card access only, wooden door and the hallway to it is dark and gloomy. The door, however, is lit up from the lights directly above it. I saw this as symbolizing an end goal after a hard, treacherous road. This is just one of the many ways Melfi used lighting to help build up and tell the story.

And last but not least, Taraji P. Henson’s performance as Johnson was wonderful. For those who know her from Fox’s “Empire,” which airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m., everyone knows she does not mess around. Henson means business, all the time, and don’t think you will get in her way. In “Hidden Figures” however, she sits back and minds her own business and lets her work do the talking for her. Despite the need to prove herself countless times until she is respected among her peers, Henson has a truly uplifting and inspiring role that could not be matched had they cast someone else for the part.

Since “Hidden Figures'” release date of Dec. 25, the movie has made a total of $127.5 million at the box office.