Kirsten Dunst

REVIEW: Hidden Figures (2016)

hidden-figures-posterThe true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians including Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who played a vital part in NASA during the early years of the American space programme.

Each of the three leads are brilliant in their roles. They feel like friends who laugh together and support each other but they are also so incredibly smart. Their chemistry is palpable. Katherine is a human computer and can figure out maths that hasn’t even been invented yet, Dorothy is wise enough to get ahead of the game, learn things like IBM computing and make her and her colleagues invaluable to NASA, and Mary wants to be an engineer and while her boss, a Polish Jew, can see her potential, she fights when every door seems to be shut in her face.

The supporting cast is great too. Jim Parsons’ Paul Stafford is one of the mathematicians who doesn’t like Katherine is smarter than him and just about every other man in the room, Kirsten Dunst’s Vivian Mitchell is Dorothy’s boss and Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison is in charge of the division that works out how to put a man in space and bring him down again.

Hidden Figures isn’t a particularly surprising film as it has the same standard formula just about any true story film has – but that doesn’t diminish how brilliant it is. Hidden Figures knows exactly what it is and it doesn’t need huge twists because the history and these women’s lives are interesting enough.

On a purely aesthetic level Hidden Figures is a beautiful-looking movie. The costumes, hair and makeup are brilliant and the soundtrack is full of catchy songs from Pharrell Williams and Mary J. Blige. The score reunites Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer and they produce music that’s exciting and heartfelt and fits the time period and the film itself wonderfully.

Hidden Figures celebrates those who history, and society, tends to overlook and shows the power of perseverance and friendship. It is amazing to see a film with three African-American leads who are masters in their field. It’s an inspiring yet also frustrating when you see what these women had to put up with, yet they still wanted to be a part of something amazing and contributed to NASA’s success. Hidden Figures will leave you with a huge smile on your face but along the way you may shed some tears, both happy and sad, and it’s really a great, crowd-pleasing movie. 5/5.

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REVIEW: Midnight Special (2016)

midnight special posterRoy (Michael Shannon) goes on the run with his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) to protect him from the government and a cult that are drawn to the child’s special abilities.

Midnight Special is a great combination of science-fiction, family drama and a road-chase plot. At its heart is the relationship between and father and son, they have a believable bond for instance when Alton tries to reassure his father that he’ll be OK and Roy says he likes worrying about him, it is one of the most relatable sentiments for a parent or child.

The other key characters include NSA analyst Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) who believes Alton is not what the government nor the cult believe him to be, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) Roy’s loyal friend who will do anything to protect Alton and Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) Alton’s mother. Nearly all the characters have their time to shine though unfortunately Sarah seemed to be underwritten compared to her male counterparts.

The plot of Midnight Special is intriguing and full of suspense as Roy and Alton struggle to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and you’re never sure which would be the lesser of two evils between the government and the cult. The special effects are brilliant and always feel natural and grounded even when things are happening around Alton that are really abnormal.

Midnight Special is one of those films that you really should go into knowing as little as possible. It might not answer all of the viewers’ questions but that’s OK because the ride is wonderful and full of terrific and understated performances. 4/5.