Hidden Figures – Movie Review

The theatre I usually attend to watch movies had an offer no one could refuse. Watching an upcoming film, knowing nothing about it beforehand. Would it be Moonlight? Or maybe Ghost in the Shell? As long as it wasn’t the new 50 Shades of Grey movie, it sounded good for me.

The film turned out to be Hidden Figures, the tale of three African-American women who played an essential role in the 1960s’ NASA operations, crossing all gender and race lines. It is the second feature directed by Theodore Melfi after St. Vincent, and stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as the three protagonists in the story.

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All three of them deliver solid performances, but Henson is arguably the highlight, who delivers a quite colourful depiction of Katherine Johnson, a physicist and mathematician whose accuracy when calculating orbits was a key element in NASA’s early space missions. It is the character that has most subtleties in the film due to her family situation, and the actress is clearly up to the task. This trio of performances is joined by Jim Parsons in the role of a non-awkward physicist, as well as by Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst as supervisors of NASA. They too offer good portrayals of their characters, even if it’s true that they don’t have too much complexity to them.

Director Melfi does a correct job when piecing everything together, but, unfortunately, the lack of focus leads to a seemingly watered-down version of history. Personal stories interfere a bit too much during the film, and when the most compelling parts are cut to those, it feels like the movie is taking something from you.

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Pacing is all over the place, too. Many moments, especially those that happen during the first half of the runtime, feel incredibly dull. Hidden Figures also lacks intensity at times. Even when the stakes are at their highest, it doesn’t have that feeling of urgency that the script needs. Some may argue that this may be due to the movie being based on real events, and I’m sure that could be the case partially, but with great films such as The Imitation Game still in mind, there is no doubt ways to avoid these issues do exist.

Cinematography, while appropriate, is nothing out-of-the-box either. It follows the typical guidelines and, while it does indeed work without having massive missteps, it is uncreative at best, with lots of missed opportunities that could have enhanced the movie greatly. It does have minor mistakes every now and then, though, such as out of focus elements and breaking the 180º rule unnecessarily a couple of times.

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Especial effects are not abundant in this film, but there are a couple of moments in which the CG imagery is too noticeable. The editing is nothing that it can boast on either, since there are many details that kept bringing me out of the movie’s universe.

If there is one evident thing in Hidden Figures, it’s that great stories don’t always translate to great films. The events depicted are very interesting, definitely some that should not be forgotten because they have so much we can learn from them. But the lack of creativity this movie suffers in every aspect avoided it from making those events justice. 6/10

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