Thursday, 16 March 2017

Film Review: Hidden Figures

With only three screenings remaining at my local cinema of this film, the husband and I headed out to see Hidden Figures last week. It's a film both of us wanted to watch and I'm so glad we got the chance to before it had run its course...And rather aptly, we saw it on International Women's Day.

Set in Virginia in the early 1960's the film centres around three friends who also happen to be colleagues. But more importantly these women were geniuses. They worked in even what today may still be considered by some to be a male-dominated environment; NASA. But to add to their already monumental struggle to get the recognition they deserve for the outstanding work they were doing, the women in question were black.

The Americans were in a two-horse race with the Russians to be the first country to put a man into space and as you my know, the Americans lost. Work at NASA started in earnest to go beyond what the Russians had managed to accomplish - to orbit the Earth ten times compared to the Russians' three - and that's when Katherine Goble - one of the three geniuses I mentioned earlier - got her break. She was tasked with assisting in the take-off and landing trajectory calculations of the US's first space mission, involving the Friendship 7 piloted by John Glenn.

Needless to say her appointment on a team of about 30 white men and one white woman was met with raised eyebrows and some resistance. But there was no denying Katherine's genius mind and she soon came to earn the respect of her male counterparts when she successfully solved a problem that had the rest of the team stumped.

All seemed to be going well for Katherine but the arrival of the IBM super computer happened, and as that could churn out calculations quicker than even Katherine's brain would allow her to, her days in the team were numbered and she was sent back wo work on basic assignments.

Luckily for Katherine the IBM wasn't all it was cracked up to be and it produced inconsistent readings for the all-important point of re-entry for the Friendship 7 mere moments before he was about to board. Having been impressed by Katherine's brilliant mind during preliminary meetings while she was still on the team and her ability to think on her feet and to not be intimated in a room full of people (more specifically a room full of white men) Glenn specifically asks that Katherine is the one to confirm the co-ordinates.

Movie-goers (well those who didn't know how the real-life version of events panned out back in 1962; I.e. me!) were left in suspense for a few minutes when it seemed the heat shield was failing and there was the threat of Glenn burning up when he re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. But all was fine in the end and he landed on Katherine's exact co-ordinates without a glitch (in the film he did, I'm not sure how accurate a representation it was of the real thing)

In the meantime Katherine's two best friends, Mary and Dorothy were busy making waves of their own.

Mary had designs on becoming a NASA engineer, except every time she thought met the engineer programme entry requirements her dreams were crushed because the goal posts kept being moved. Despite the fact she had a Batchelor's Degree in mathematics and physical science it turns out she also needed a qualification from the local college.....which was a college for white people only.

Mary did not let that stop her. She was a woman who was as fearless as she was intelligent and she wasn't about to let the colour of her skin stop her from realising her dream. Having applied to the court and having given the judge "what-for" in one of the most persuasive speeches I've heard in a long time, Mary was granted leave to attend the college. She graduated and went on to become NASA's first black female engineer.

Dorothy was a woman who could read computer programmes like she was reading the newspaper.

The arrival of the IBM brought with it a threat to her job and the jobs of her fellow black co-workers. Dorothy wasn't going to take that lying-down and instead made it her business to understand how the beast (in Dorothy's own words) worked. After all it would need to be programmed/the readings and calculations understood and translated to those not in "the know"; and she wanted in.

Her hard work and dedication paid off; it was clear that she was the only one capable of taming the beast. She was eventually prompted to Supervisor (a fight she had been battling for some time without any success) and in a turnaround it was the white women who were taking instructions and directions from a black woman.

I could rave about this film until the (Jersey) cows come home. I absolutely loved it. And I've not even mentioned Kevin Costner yet; he played a cracker of a part. He had the foresight to not let something like skin-colour affect how someone was treated and showed Katherine due respect right from the start.

Honestly this film blew me away. It's the sort of feel-good film you want to shout "hell yeah" at, when the credits roll. It's one of my favourite films and I'm hoping I'll have a DVD shaped gift among my birthday presents this year....

If you get the chance to watch this film then please do. I hope you love it as much as I did!


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