Hidden Figures

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday April 18, 2017

Hidden Figures

The Oscar-Nominated film that tells the true story of NASA's African-American female work force of human "computers" in the 1960s space race comes home on Blu-ray and DVD in this new release.

Viola Davis and Kevin Costner headline a strong cast, and Mahershala Ali -- who won the Oscar for Best supporting Actor for his role in "Moonlight" -- does more award-worthy work here. But it's Taraji P. Henson who shoulders the film's core story as a widow and single mother Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician whose abilities are overlooked because of her race and gender. Once Johnson finds a place in the white male domain of engineers and number crunchers at the Langley Research Center, where technology and formulae are feverishly being worked out to propel human beings to the Moon, her gifts prove too valuable to be ignored or discounted. Meantime, her two closest friends, Dorothy Vaughn (Davis) and Mary Jackson (Janelle MonŠe), forge equally trailblazing paths in computer programming and engineering.

The film is based on the book of the same name, which reveals a true, and long neglected, story of the contributions of African-American women to America's space program. But the movie's triumphal mood is laced with exasperation: It's 2017 and too many of the same prejudices (and rhetorical justifications for them) linger on.

This home edition features several featurettes that can, with the press of the "Play All" button, be strung into one longer documentary. Amidst the usual mutual back-slapping, cast and crew talk about the story, the history of inequitable race and gender relations in the United States, and how director and co-writer Theodore Melfi became involved in the project. He was so smitten, we learn, that he took his name out of the running for the next "Spider-Man" feature, a sure-fire project that was sure to be lucrative. There's also a featurette that tackles the subject of filming the movie in the state of Georgia. A deleted scene, photo gallery, and audio commentary track by Melfi and Henson round out the extras. (Film geeks will delight in hearing about how complicated sequences were filmed and put together, as well as other details about the production.)

Important without being preachy (well - maybe just a little), well-produced and charming, this is a film with both a message and genuine heart.

"Hidden Figures"




Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.