The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. Following three of that team, namely Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) the story follows their struggles in a world where being female, and being of colour, adds many additional obstacles to their daily lives.
As the story begins, there is more focus put on Katherine Johnson, her childhood as a gifted youngster, and eventually landing a job as a computer at NASA, where she would excel and be known for her accuracy in orbital calculations.
While Hidden Figures does take some dramatic licence, highlighting the racial issues of the time, and creates a few composite characters in the form of Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) and Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues). They are joined by department head Al Harrison (Kevin Costner – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, McFarland, USA) and not forgetting the home side of life, with love interest Colonel Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1). The underlying story is one of determination and excellence.
With a talented and established cast making up the ensemble, a gripping and interesting story, well presented, with the accompaniment of music by producer Pharrell Williams, Hidden Figures is a gem of information, story and entertainment. This is certainly one not to miss.
Overall, the disc is of a good quality, technically, with a great main feature. There are a few times where the footage looks grainy, or that there are artefacts, but this can be attributed to using actual footage from the time, and not the film itself.
Hidden Figures is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.
Video for the main feature is encoded at a high average bitrate, with no visible artefacts on screen, other than when they filmmakers have used old archive footage, where the source material would be to blame, and not the disc or film itself.
Colours are vibrant where needed, with no visible colour bleed. Contrast holds up well, and detail is maintained in darker scenes.
The disc menu has a higher compression rate, with a few visible artefacts, especially with the small detail, and when viewed on a larger screen. This doesn’t really affect the viewing experience, and a higher compression for the menu means less compression for the main title, where it counts most.
Audio is encoded at a high average bitrate, and delivered in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue is clear via the centre channel, with the weight of the soundtrack born by the front channels.
There is some use of the surround channels, but given the genre of the film, it is expected that there wouldn’t be a very large use of these. These serve to expand the on-screen world for the viewer, and further draw them into the story.
Navigation is simple, and easy to use, with a static main menu, and accompanying music. The main menu has text links to play the main feature, setup, scenes and extras.
The setup menu allows for choice of desired soundtrack, with a further menu item in the sub-menu to navigate to the subtitles menu.
The scenes menu presents four large, still, colour thumbnails. These are large enough to make out the details (save for some video compression artefacts), but while they are numbered, they are not labelled, meaning some guesswork would be needed to navigate to a particular point in the main film.
The extras menu takes the viewer to text sub-menus with text links to the various bonus features on the disc.
No Limits: The Life of Katherine Johnson – Although the title on the disc menu suggests a feature about Katherine Johnson’s life, the title when one plays the feature is Hidden Figures: It All Adds Up. This is a more apt title, and likely the correct title for the feature, as opposed to the one on the menu.
The video provides more background about the team of computers and their jobs, amidst the American effort in the space race. While including information about Katherine Johnson, and some interview material with her, it is not solely about her or her career at NASA, but rather covering things on a broader level.
An interesting video, and a part of history that is not too well known, or widely spread. This feature is a great addition to the disc.
Moving the Decimal: Honouring Katherine Johnson – A short video highlighting a few of the honours bestowed on Katherine for her work, including the dedication ceremony for the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at NASA, and the presentation of a Presidential Medal of Freedom by former United States president Barack Obama.
Hidden Figures: Filming in Georgia – Another short video on filming on location in Georgia, and the cooperation received by the filmmakers, and the people of Georgia. There is a look at some of the locations used, and how those were utilised in the film itself. An interesting piece of background information, with some great visuals in the form of scenery.
Audio Commentary with Theodore Melfi and Taraji P. Henson – Writer and director Theodore Melfi, and actress Taraji P. Henson (who plays Katherine Johnson) give an insight into the filmmaking process, a good deal of background to the story, and details into their respective processes as they prepared for the film. This is sure to of interest to viewers, and budding filmmakers, alike. The feature includes a look into history, and events that have not received the attention they deserved.
Gallery – As the name implies, the final feature is a gallery of still images (prefixed by a rather detailed explanation on the various ways to view and navigate the images). The photos are as clear and detailed as one could ever expect on a DVD, given the restrictions of the technology, and should appeal to some viewers.