“I like her numbers,” astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) announces after witnessing unheralded NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) crack a previously unsolvable equation. With luck, audiences will echo Glenn’s sentiments when 20th Century Fox unveils the complete cut of Hidden Figures, an inspirational and patriotic drama that the studio just teased at the Toronto International Film Festival.
One of the great things about movies is that they can reveal things to the general public that most never knew before. Hidden Figures does this by shining a light on a part of the space program that most of us never think about. We’ve seen numerous films about some of the first men to go to the moon, but much less so about the people who helped them get there. We knew so little, that we had no idea how many African-American women were part of the program.
Taraji P. Henson plays actual NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was part of the elite team that helped launch John Glenn on his primary orbit around our planet and, more important, bring him back home. As part of the footage shown, we were introduced to the three headstrong, intelligent and talented women at the heart of Ted Melfi’s historical drama: Johnson; division supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer); and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). They are big personalities, who made huge contributions to our space program during the race our country held with Russian at the time of the Cold War.