Hidden Figures (2016)
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- 127 min.
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I'm a huge sucker for space race stories, and Hidden Figures is a well-written and performed biopic, centering on three exemplary black women who worked at NASA during the Mercury program (and beyond, but the film is strictly set in the early 60s) in jobs normally reserved for white men - mathematics and engineering. While we blazed a trail to the stars, they were trailblazers here on Earth. 1961 NASA is obviously a den on inequity, but the effort to get a man in orbit and then to the moon, by whatever means, gave these three opportunities that might not have otherwise been possible. It seems like Kevin Costner is typecast as a White Messiah figure these days, but the leads have enough agency not to make that an issue, despite his playing the one guy who sees beyond gender and race(TM) in the movie (he's actually not the only one). A minority story worth celebrating, and not just because it's about black women - there's something to be said about this achievement told through the eyes of the ground crew rather than the astronauts. Where I cannot give the film a pass is in its technical polish. Lens focus and editing mistakes are apparent, and though some of these may be due to bad digital transfers and the like (I've struggled with theaters' blurry projections lately), that wouldn't account for all the technical flaws. A minor grievance, but I must air it nonetheless.
An important story much deserving of its telling with many memorable scenes. Tonally, the film is right on the money with fine performances. The sets and costumes are immaculate recreations of the era. The language and culture oozes in every scene.
It is not without flaws. The cinematography is average for the awards-season type film. The script loses its narrative thrust as it meanders into the second half, and there may be just one sub-plot too many. The film overstays its welcome for these reasons by about 20 minutes.
Nonetheless, Hidden Figures is an immensely fascinating piece that requires viewing.
4 stars out of 5
Formulaic, but excellent in everything that matters.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #37 in History
This movie ranks #49 in Biography
This movie ranks #535 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #576 in All-Time Worldwide Box office