“A mind doesn’t have a colour”

(Taraji P. Henson)

The words of lead actress, Taraji P. Henson perfectly encapsulates the message that this film imparts on its viewers. Intellect should be valued for all, regardless of race or gender, as a mind, indeed, has no colour.

First and foremost, if you have not seen the film, go see it in a cinema, not on your laptop. This film is very significant in its depiction of race as well as for its diversity of content and roles. It is vital that the industry continue to make films like this one, to shine light on the untold stories of those whose stories deserve to be told. In order to continue making films like this it is important to support the film by watching it in the cinema. Now for the review

Based on a true story, the film takes place within the space race of the 1960s amidst the racial tension of the civil rights movement and presents the battle to put a man in space from the previously untold perspective of the African-American women that helped make it happen. The tale centres on three women: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These women worked for NASA as ‘human computers’, women who worked out the complicated mathematical equations required for space exploration. The work that these women were conducting was largely overlooked in importance, on account of their race, this is evident particularly when the character, Mary Jackson is asked whether or not she would aspire to be an engineer if she were a white man, and she replies, “I wouldn’t have too. I would already be one.” The aptitude of these ladies is unjustly ignored, yet does prevail.

The portrayal of protagonist, Katherine Johnson, by renowned actress, Taraji P. Henson, is full of depth and strength. Though her position is a subordinate, her character is anything but, she is fearless and astounds all her colleagues with her knowledge of mathematics. Furthermore, supporting actress Octavia Spencer, takes the role of Dorothy Vaughan. Vaughan, who is continually passed over for promotion for the position of supervisor, is a truly unique character also. When she realizes that the IBM machines could replace her entire team of human computers, she takes the task of teaching her whole team of African-American computers how to programme the IBM machines in order to retain their jobs. This is a task her white superiors in the film could not even do, let alone teach.

In general, the film focuses on the efforts of NASA in successfully orbiting John Glenn around the world, and just before leaving, Glenn distrusts the figures produced, and requests “the girl to check the numbers”, by girl, Glenn means Katherine Johnson. It is of great importance that the success of the entire mission was in the hands of this African-American mathematician, whom the world had never heard about. Despite being hidden for so long, the tale is that of three great women, that should be the role models emulated by the youth, for their tenacity, grit and intellect.

The score of the movie is as empowering and uplifting as the subject matter discussed. As a result of the most wonderful collaboration between musical legends, Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, the soundtrack to the movie is intensely joyous and at times soulful. The cinematography excellently matches the music against which it is set. The film is a must watch for all, due to the magnificent way in which these women break down the barriers set before them, and get ahead.

It seems strange that this unique and powerful story has hitherto remained untold in mass media, it addresses key issues regarding racial discrimination, inequality, and also gender discrimination in a male dominated industry. A necessity to create a dialogue concerning these barriers is as prevalent today as it was in the 1960s.

Gugundeep Kaur


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