A rousing crowd-pleaser and an eye-opening account of an incredible, unknown piece of America’s space and civil-rights history, Hidden Figures will surprise even the most jaded filmgoer cautious of every inspirational tale cooked up from a true event. The redacted contributions of three African-American women to America’s eventual victory in the Space Race promises a compelling film, and grounded performances from Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe and Kevin Costner (returning to All-American form) ensure the film never lifts off into flights of inspiration. (Henson’s Oscar-clip rant may be the lone exception.)
Hidden Figures deserves to be this year’s The Blind Side—beloved by audiences, critics and awards providers. While the additional facts about Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson explain the need for writer-director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) and co-writer Allison Schroeder to include the extended family sequences—especially Katherine’s courtship by Colonel Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali)—it is the women’s crucial work in NASA’s early days that makes for compelling cinema. Hidden Figures has all the right stuff.
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