Hidden Figures 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
HIDDEN FIGURES tells the true story of a group of African American, female mathematicians working at NASA in the 60’s that were key to getting a man in space. People more qualified than I can analyze the political importance of the film, but for me, I enjoy any behind-the-scenes look at a major event, especially when people we haven’t heard of before make that event possible. HIDDEN FIGURES is a nice, Hollywood telling of a true story that needed to be told.
The film follows Katherine (Henson), Dorothy (Spencer) and Mary (Monae) as they navigate the shifting political landscape at NASA during the 60’s. Faced with increasing pressure from their Soviet counterparts, Al (Costner) and his team of scientists are desperate to overcome the obstacles that are preventing them from sending a human to space. Desperate for her specific skill set, Katherine finds herself on Al’s team. Meanwhile, Dorothy sees the writing on the wall when NASA buys a new IBM computer that would essentially replace her and her team. But since no one can work the machine, Dorothy takes it upon herself to learn how to use the new technology. And Mary is anxious to officially become an engineer, but must jump through the various hoops that stand in her way.
The film plays out like a Disney sports movie where the heroes lose a few games early on, but band together and find a way to win as the film progresses. Although that sounds insulting, the tone and structure fits this particular story pretty well. The three main characters get enough backstory to make them interesting and they have to go through a series of obstacles to come out okay on the other side. Director Theodore Melfi keeps everything moving quickly and although our characters are mistreated and oppressed, the tone of the film makes it clear that our heroes are never really in danger and that everything will be okay.
That makes for a nice story, but the downside to the Disney vibe of HIDDEN FIGURES is that everything wraps up a bit too nicely. All three women find their perfect men and receive just the right amount of vindication. The “villains” are bad, but not too bad and the good guy is good, but not too good. And of course, all of the racist white characters learn their lesson and feel appropriately bad about their actions. I don’t know what really happened or how everything went down, but my guess is that not everything worked out quite so well. But again, it works for the kind of movie that Melfi is telling. The goal with HIDDEN FIGURES is to bring attention to a group of people that would never otherwise receive the attention they deserve. If he made it a straight up civil rights film or told it as dark as it could have been told, it might have taken away from the heroics and bravery of the women.
HIDDEN FIGURES was a surprise box office success and was even rewarded with some Oscar nominations in the process. The attention it has received is well deserved as the film tells an important story in a fun, sometimes lighthearted manner while still respecting the seriousness of its subject matter. That’s a tough thing to pull off and Melfi managed to do it very well.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: HIDDEN FIGURES has some of the normal improvements in detail and color that we’ve become used to in 4K, but the film doesn’t lend itself to any “wow” moments the format can offer. Also, keep in mind that HIDDEN FIGURES uses a lot of archival footage, which of course doesn’t have much of an impact on 4K, other than to draw attention to some of the grain and deficiencies in the footage. But overall, the presentation is an improvement, especially in some of the darker scenes. On the plus side, the film features a lot of brightly lit scenery they stands out thanks to the HDR.
Audio: The DTS track from the Blu-ray is included on the 4K.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Commentary with Theodore Melfi and Taraji P. Henson A slow and not terribly exciting commentary. Neither director or actress seemed to feel entirely comfortable doing an audio commentary and although there were some interesting facts thrown in, it was tedious and seemed a little forced from both of them.
It All Adds Up — The Making of Hidden Figures (41:46) a set of five featurettes that touch on various subjects including the real life of Katherine Johnson and music from the film. There are a lot of interviews sprinkled throughout the featurettes. These are somewhat interesting, but they do seem quite ordinary.
Deleted Scenes (10:14) a set of short deleted scenes that you can watch with optional commentary by director Theodore Melfi.
Hidden Figures: Filming in Georgia (15:15) A short look at the actual locations they used in Georgia as opposed to real NASA locations.