‘Hidden Figures’ reviews: Critics embrace true-life story of 3 black women who helped launch NASA

Hidden Figures,” which opens on Christmas Day, tells the true story of three unsung heroes of the NASA space program: mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), whose contributions were all the more impressive because they were black women working in the South during the Jim Crow era.

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The film aims to be a crowd-pleaser and succeeds according to critics. As of this writing the film an impressive 94% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. The film “bursts onto the screen like a shot of distilled, exhilarating joy,” which may come as a surprise to some. Given its subject matter one might have expected a weighty history lesson, but “its actual ambitions seem far more modest: to entertain a lot, to educate a bit and to cheerlead pretty much constantly.”

Also receiving praise are the “powerfully effective” performances of its stars, who have already been recognized this season with SAG and Critics’ Choice nominations for Best Ensemble, and Spencer has been singled out by SAG and the Golden Globes for her scene-stealing supporting role.

Check out some of the film’s reviews below, and discuss this and more in our movie forums.

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Ann Hornaday (Washington Post): “So one of the most gratifying qualities of ‘Hidden Figures’ is how it bursts onto the screen like a shot of distilled, exhilarating joy. This bracing movie, about a group of brilliant African American women whose scientific and mathematical skills helped NASA launch its space exploration program in the 1950s and 1960s, gets off to a spirited start and rarely lets up, sharing with viewers a little-known chapter of history as inspiring as it is intriguing.”

Catherine Shoard (The Guardian): “This is something of a surprise: ‘Hidden Figures’s’ other great asset is that although it looks like a movie machine-tooled to ride the wave of #OscarsSoWhite backlash, its actual ambitions seem far more modest: to entertain a lot, to educate a bit and to cheerlead pretty much constantly.”

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Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times): “A Grade-A Hollywood crowd-pleaser that happily celebrates its shameless moments, ‘Hidden Figures’ can be teased but it can’t be ignored. The film may not be restrained but stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe are powerfully effective and its little-known true story is so flabbergasting that resistance is all but futile.”

Brian Truitt (USA Today): “It takes the combined power of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe to make math a joy like it never was in high school. There are numbers and geometric shapes aplenty in the engaging and feel-good period drama ‘Hidden Figures’ but also a wealth of excellent performances and a variety of important stories.”

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