Three biographical true stories rolled into one, this competently-made feel-good film highlights the work and experiences of three talented and driven African-American women who helped drive NASA towards success in the space race of the 1960s.
I am glad that this film was made, and glad that it was nominated. It tells an important and historically overlooked story, and does so in a pleasing, well-realized way.
However, the film suffers from being split into three narratives, each of which it covers only superficially. There is not much in the way of tension, as the movie moves stepwise through its plot points, easily setting up and resolving moments of conflict without much lasting impact.
That being said, all of the elements, from the direction to the cinematography to the costume design, are capably executed. Taraji P. Henson is at her subtle, evocative best (although she did not garner a nomination), and her co-stars, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer (who did manage to snag a Supporting nom) show their chops in equal measure.
Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali makes an appearance, with much less to do here than in his nominated role, as he drives a completely extraneous romantic subplot that has zero impact on the rest of the story.
Ultimately, the film gives interesting insight into the early days of NASA and the space race through a unique and important lens, but opts for popular appeal over any attempt to push artistic or social boundaries.
Verdict: If you’re interested in NASA or the early days of space exploration, or are looking for a heartwarming, family-friendy film, this is a good bet. If you’re looking for something more substantive, take a pass.
Prediction: Other than Best Picture and Octavia Spencer’s Actress in a Supporting Role, the film picked up a nomination for Adapted Screenplay. I wouldn’t put it in the top two contenders for any of these categories, but there’s an off chance it could turn things around in the Screenplay group.