The film has three themes. The first is racism and their struggle to overcome its unforgiving grip on their lives. The theme is heavily played, perhaps over egging it, but the dignity of the women to rise above it did help temper this as did the other two themes. Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) uses his authority to leverage some rest-bite from the bigotries of fellow scientists such as Paul Stafford (badly cast as Jim Parsons – sorry the guy will always be Sheldon Cooper and has been paid handsomely paid for this career suicide) and Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) the bitch boss who eventually yet slightly reluctantly finds redemption and ends up liking the “coloureds” – all a bit corny that!
The second theme was their lives, community and interaction with each other. This was beautiful and included a lovely romantic storyline (yes I usually hate romance) for widowed Johnson who finds love a second time around in Col Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali – aka Remy from House Of Cards) Nice to to be informed at the end of the movie that they spent 57 years together!
And the final theme is the whole Space Race thing. This for me was the fun bit. Not too dumbed down yet not over my head either. Gave a real pace to the film as well as a feeling of involvement. And the nice blend of effects and old authentic footage is a credit to director/writer Theodore Melfi.
Ultimately this is a feel good film. The genre of African-American has certainly become a theme in the Academy awards in recent years and one can’t help cynically wondering if it was made for the awards. However, given the politics that have surface in the last 12 months, its also a poignant and chilling reminder that history can easily repeat itself.