HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Hidden Figures
HTS Overall Score:87
I have to admit that I love inspirational stories. Especially ones based off of true events. It’s been a great time of year for those types of films and this week I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing 2 fantastic ones. “Lions” was the first and now we have the true story about the hidden mathematicians behind the 1961 John Glenn orbital space flight in “Hidden Figures”. The basis of “Hidden Figures” is a true, but tragic, portion of our history and one of the reasons that I always roll my eyes when people scream “racism!” at anything and everything. What we see today is a FAR cry from 56 years when the civil rights movement was still being fought (sometimes literally) in the streets of our nation. While I have a cynical nature about the veracity and accuracy of that battle cry in today’s culture I fully admit that America has not always been as accepting of other people as they are today. In fact, the African American slavery, then segregation after said slavery has been one of the biggest and blackest spots on our nation’s past. Human bigotry is an incredible force that is something to be overcome, but through it all, people have persevered. “Hidden Figures” documents the real-life struggles and successes of three African American women in the NASA space program just during the dawn of said civil rights movement.
Successes and perseverance stories are always uplifting, but none so uplifting as the hidden story of three mathematically inclined women during the 1961 John Glenn space program. These three women happen to be Katherine C. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), a simply BRILLIANT woman with one of the most mathematically gifted minds in the U.S. at the time. The second being Dorothy Vaughan, a brilliant woman who man not hold the mathematical prowess of Katherine, but has the common-sense skills to use what is at her disposal to make herself completely invaluable. The third being Mary Jackson, one of the best non-engineer engineer’s that NASA has ever seen. The one thing these three women have in common? The fact that they’re both Black women in an age when segregation is just starting to be torn down. Working as basic computers of mathematical calculations for the space program the three women (and the rest of the segregated West Wing “Colored Computers”) are underutilized and overqualified for their respective jobs. A chance of lifetime comes when Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) in the aeronautics division needs a new computational advisor for his project to get John Glenn up into orbit. With no other qualified mathematicians on site, the job is given to Katherine.
The job is NOWHERE near easy though. Even though she has a simply brilliant mind, much of Katherine’s works is hindered by the passive bigotry and racism that permeated much of our country at that time. Work that should be helped and guided along is hindered and blocked due to her status and Katherine’s frustrations rise until she can take it no longer. Simultaneously, NASA is also installing the world’s first IBM super computer in the building and Dorothy realizes that she and the other “colored’s” are soon to be out of a job. Refusing to let that happen, the mechanically gifted woman takes it upon herself to learn the Fortran programming language of the monstrous beast (I still remember those old punch cards that had to be fed to the machines back then in my nightmares) and soon is able to create a niche for herself that causes everyone to sit back and take notice. Mary Jackson is not to be left behind as she is probably one of the best engineers on the site, only she doesn’t have an engineering degree or the pre-requisites. At the behest of her co-worker Mary begins the long fight uphill to gain entry into NASA’s engineering department. A battle that will take her through courts to gain the education she needs, and uphill against the people who refuse to let her make something of her life.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95305[/img]“Hidden Figures” has some overly cliched “uplifting story” tropes, but it surpasses those clichés by the incredibly gifted cast that just shine throughout the movie. Octavia Spencer is always a treat to behold and her quiet but steady portrayal of real life NASA employee Dorothy Vaughan I nothing short of fantastic. Janelle Monae does a great job with Mary Jackson, but the three that really hold the movie together are Taraji P. Jensen, Kevin Costner, and Jim Parsons (who sheds his Sheldon persona admirably well). The three of them make up the core focus of Katherine’s climb to the top and incredible success by the time the film is over. Even out of those three, Taraji shines the brightest, as you can’t take your eyes off of her every time Katherine is on screen. She’s quiet, composed, intense, and completely riveting throughout the film as her persistence and passion peel back layer after layer of skepticism.
Inspiring stories are always great, but being that “Hidden Figures” was not only true (or mostly true, there’s a few things tweaked here and there from the original story, but nothing major), but that it wasn’t one of the big ones that we already know about. The freshness and discovery of this story in the public eye makes it all the more delectable as film lovers get to enjoy something that’s rare in Hollywood. A NEW story. Even though I love Katherine’s climb to the top in the story, this is really a tale about ALL of the women involved. Mary and Dorothy’s don’t seem as immediate or “impressive’ compared to Katherine’s mathematical genius, but upon closer inspection you have to realize that each of these three women were pioneers in their own field, and have created institutions and rippling waves that are still reaching into today.
Rated PG for thematic elements and some language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95313[/img]“Hidden Figures” is one of the ever-decreasing number of films that is not shot digitally these days. Shot with a combination of 35mm and 16mm film, it has a decidedly organic look to it that aids in the period piece grading of the film’s appearance. The opening shot is heavily graded with a sepia color tone and the use of the 16mm film source creates a rather gritty and “old” look to it. Once we get into the modern 1961 material the image quality sharpens right up and the fairly neutral color grading gives us a bright and cheery image to enjoy. The colors WITHIN the film (outside of the grading) definitely are more pastel and less saturated due to trying to keep with the 1960’s colors used, but the fine detailing for the set is nothing short of amazing. The red lipstick of Katherine and Mary pop off the screen and intimate clothing details are visible to the naked eye. Black levels are nice and strong and only once or twice did I notice any banding to mar the image.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=95321[/img]I wasn’t able to review the 4K UHD disc this go around, but I can confirm that Fox is using the same 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio track for both the Blu-ray AND the 4K UHD, so this paragraph would apply to both formats. The 7.1 track is decidedly a surprising experience for a dramatic film. I fully expected a front heavy mix with little, to no, rear engagement of the surrounds or heavy LFE use, but it there is a large amount of activity on all fronts. The track CAN be very front heavy at times (again, drama), but the dialog is always crystal clear and the imaging in the front 2 speakers is impeccable. The surrounds get some nice activity with the sounds of the space launches and there are quite a few discrete sounds that get blended in as well. Little noises from Katherine’s kitchen, or the rumblings of the math “den” where she works all show some great localization of voices and general office sounds. The LFE throbs and pulses with the space launches and even a few moments of the score add some much desired weight to the whole experience.
• It All Adds Up – The Making of Hidden Figures
- No Limits – The Life of Katherine Johnson
- The Right People for the Job
- Recreating an Era – The Look of Hidden Figures
- A Spiritual Journey – The Music of Hidden Figures
- Moving the Decimal – Honoring Katherine Johnson
• Deleted Scenes
• Hidden Figures: Filming in Georgia
• Audio Commentary by Theodore Melfi and Taraji P. Henson
“Hidden Figures” is a fantastic and uplifting film that is family friendly from all fronts. It’s a great true story and one that is incredibly important in laying out how much we have grown as a nation and to applaud the successes of these three women and their successors. Inspiring and heartwarming, “Hidden Figures” is one of those movies that is incredibly agile on its feet and never once had me looking for how much time was left in the film. Fox has also done a fantastic job with the package, with amazing technical specs and a very solid extras package as well. Highly Recommended.
Starring: Taraji P. Hensen, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monale
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish, Czech, Portuguese, Hindi, Urdu, Hungarian, Thai, Turkish DD 5.1
Runtime: 127 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 11th, 2017
Buy Hidden Figures On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Hidden Figures On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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