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Capricorn One
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72 out of 96 people found the following review useful:

"We're dead." "What?" "We're dead."

Author: (stevenlshoup) from United States
1 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

WHY CAPRICORN ONE? Capricorn: "Capricorn is one of the most stable and (mostly) serious of the zodiacal types. These independent, rock-like characters have many sterling qualities. They are normally confident, strong willed and calm. These hardworking, unemotional, shrewd, practical, responsible, persevering, and cautious to the extreme persons, are capable of persisting for as long as is necessary to accomplish a goal they have set for themselves." It ain't just about the mission's name.

The space program is in trouble. Their next mission MUST succeed or the funding is axed and the entire agency vanishes. That next mission is the first manned landing on Mars and it is going very smoothly indeed, to the awe and excitement of the U.S.A. and the entire world. What the world outside of the space agency doesn't know is that the whole mission is fake. It's been set up and broadcast from a deserted military base 300 miles west of Houston.

It seems a critical piece of equipment proved faulty too late to abort the project and so the space agency (it is never directly called N.A.S.A.)-- in cahoots with shadowy, high government powers -- had pulled the three astronauts from the capsule moments before launch, whisked them to the deserted base, explained the situation, pleaded for their (reluctant)cooperation through some not-so-subtle intimidation, and all has been peaches and cream and now it looks like their "re-entry and landing" will be near perfect albeit 200 miles off-course so that they can get the spacemen back into the capsule.

Nothing is going to ruin this mission.

So what if one of the console technicians has noticed that the TV broadcasts are earthbound, not from space? He simply disappears.

Nothing is going to ruin this mission.

ALmost nothing: a bad circuit in one of the other consoles claims that the heat shield has separated from the capsule upon re-entry and all three astronauts burned alive in the capsule. But they are alive and well in a deserted base in Texas . . . and they know that they are expendable.

Nothing is going to ruin this mission.

The chase is on between 3 frightened pilots, a far-flung, well organized cover-up machine, two relentless black-ops helicopters, and a lazy, cynical reporter (friend of the missing console jockey) who smells a rat.

Writer/Director Hyams has build himself one slick, fast-paced thriller from a script conceived during his CBS reporter days covering Vietnam. It was there that he envisioned how easy it could be for a huge government to cover up anything it wished. In the post-Moonwalk years, when some wing-nut conspiracy groupies insisted NASA had faked the moon landing, Hyams found his base plot and it works like a charm! The casting is near perfect. Dependable old Hal Holbrook is the head of the space agency, in over his head and resigned to having to kill his crew, including the team leader (Brolin); his friend of 16 years. Nothing is going to ruin this mission. Brolin, O.J. Simpson, and Sam Waterston never really get any chance for character development, save for Waterston's likable wise-cracking. Brenda Vacarro and Karen Black give equally strong performances; David Huddleston is dead on as the Florida senator in support of the space program. In tow with James Karen as the Vice President, they have some enjoyable moments satirizing Washington Double-Speak; Robert Walden, as the doomed console technician, gives an intense, sad, dark sense of puzzlement in his performance of a man who is trying to help but feels like he's to blame. Elliot Gould just normally comes across to me as someone sleeping his way through a role, but for this picture it is perfect for the character of reporter Caulfield. This sleepy, cynical, unenergetic man who is slowly putting the pieces together and too frightened to say his surmises out loud, is deftly handled through Gould's stock-in-trade persona.

I really felt that David Doyle and Telly Savalas should've switched roles. Neither man was truly convincing in his performance and their characters might have been better served being traded between them.

However, the real star of the film is Bill Butler, the Director of Photography. What he releases on your screen is an artful array of cinema: The pull back, and cross pan shots of the in-studio Mars terrain; the terrifying out-of-control car Gould is trying to avoid being pulverized in; the quiet terror of Hal Holbrook's office as he makes and takes his telephone calls; Those evil insect-like helicopters in landing or in flight; the dark dread in the cave as Brolin, hiding from the pursuers, confronts a nasty viper; the stark, dry brittleness of the desert that Brolin, Waterston, and Simpson must challenge; The strain and exhaustion of Waterston as he scales the dry mountain side to escape his fate, but in vain. But most of all it is the exciting, jolting aerial ballet of the copter and bi-plane chase. It draws you in visually to the point of giving you a queasy stomach! (Yes, I know. There are no mountains in central Texas. There are no 50 feet tall gorillas in New York City either, but you enjoyed King Kong didn't you?) The icing on the cake of Butler's images and Hyams well done script is the pounding, driving score by Jerry Goldsmith. It is all beats of percussion, plucks of strings and short orchestral punches. It gives a sense of impending doom, fear, conspiracy, and paranoia.

While it is safe to say that N.A.S.A is the most non-political, benign department of the government, an agency whose efforts have given the public such fruits of success as the microwave oven, superior fibers for insulation, freeze-dried foods, and Tang, just to name a scant few, if you can put your common sense on hold and believe that the space agency could be cold, crisp, self-serving, and ruthless enough to kill to stay alive, then you've come to the right movie.

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41 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Different From How I Remembered But Very Impressive

Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
10 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


NASA send a manned space mission to Mars but at the very last minute change their minds and ask the astronauts to take part in an elaborate hoax . They agree but a computer error at mission control states their capsule burnt up on re-entry which means they are now dead

I first saw CAPRICORN ONE in 1982 and was slightly disappointed by it . I was under the impression it was going to have science fiction elements to it but there were none . I saw it again for a second time tonight and was very impressed by it mainly because I knew what it isn't . It isn't a sci-fi movie and it's also important to point out that it isn't a conspiracy theory thriller either . Can you imagine how the movie would have played out if it was produced today ? It would have shot itself in the foot by bludgeoning the audience to death with a " trust no one " message . Gawd I hate conspiracy theories , but not as much as I hate conspiracy theorists , many of whom point to this film saying that if someone can make a movie about a hoax mission to Mars then that proves that the moon landings were faked !

It is true that CAPRICORN ONE will always be remembered as " That movie about the Mars landing that's faked in a film studio " but this is to do it a slight disservice . The one thing I liked about this movie is that it succeeds in doing what must be the hardest thing for a screenwriter to do and that is to create pithy dialogue that sounds natural . Take the scene where the NASA boss catches the Vice President drooling over some spectators butt : " It's over there mister vice president . It's the big long thing on the launching pad . You can't miss it " or the later telephone conversation between the same two characters , or take the highly amusing scene where Elliot Gould's journalist character is given a lecture by his editor . Perhaps the most memorable conversation is the monologue scene where Hal Holbrook's character laments the lack of endeavor of the present day Americans some of whom phoned up to complain about the I LOVE LUCY re-runs being cancelled because of the moon landings .

The clever dialogue is a joy to behold . Ironically the bit that I remembered the most - The desert escape scenes - from first viewing are the bits I was least impressed with after seeing it again tonight . This down to one simple reason and that's the lack of dialogue . Unfortunately there are one or two plot holes that also stopped me from praising the movie as a classic thriller . One is that you are never totally convinced that this type of hoax would ever work in reality . On screen it just seems a couple of NASA people , a couple of feds and two helicopter pilots know what's going on . Surely the hoax would have comprised of hundreds of people ? Would they all be trusted to keep their mouth shut ? What about all the radar stations and observatories across the world ? Wouldn't they have noticed something was wrong when the capsule didn't re-appear on their radar screens during re-entry . Wouldn't these spooks destroy all the evidence in case a nosy journalist chanced upon the studio where the fake mission was filmed ? You see it all falls apart when you study the scenario a little too hard , but no doubt there's a lot of middle aged virgins wearing anoraks jumping up and down pointing out that because the Apollo missions were faked no one making this movie wanted to give away any secrets as to you can fake a space mission

So if you get the chance to see CAPRICORN ONE just sit back and don't let your mind work too hard but listen out for the memorable dialogue . Also watch out for the desert scene where the three astronauts find a survival kit and Brubaker decides to give the knife to the astronaut who isn't played by OJ Simpson

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34 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Exciting thriller

Author: Jonathon Dabell ( from Todmorden, England
10 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Capricorn One is interesting and exciting, with a very well worked out plot and a fast-moving script, nicely enlivened by the all star cast.

It is about a trio of astronauts about to embark on the first manned mission to Mars who are taken off their shuttle at the eleventh hour and whisked away to a secret building in the middle of nowhere. From there, they are forced into acting out the mission, thus taking part in one of the most audacious hoaxes of all-time against their will. However things get worse when they discover that they are going to be killed when their part in the ruse is over, under the believable cover story that their shuttle burned up during re-entry. Elliot Gould enters the story here, as a nosy reporter who gets wind of the deception and sets out to expose it.

This is probably the best of all Peter Hyams' films, because it has the most ingenious script and feels fresh and lively throughout. Most of the performances are well judged, although the climax is spoilt somewhat by Telly Savalas's unnecessary comic relief cameo. James Brolin, OJ Simpson and Sam Waterson as the unfortunate astronauts turn in convincing performances as men forced to deceive the world - including their families - against their wishes. Gould, as the witty and quick thinking reporter, produces the most colourful characterisation of his entire career.

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37 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

First-rate, thought provoking and exciting thriller

Author: ( from England
9 May 2004

I just wish some of those technically minded, nit-picking nerds who submit boring, long winded indictments of really good films would just lighten up and take films for what they're meant to be.....entertainment. I revisited Capricorn One this evening and the 2 hours just flew by. Every film ever made (no matter how great) is flawed. They're not meant to be picked apart, anyone can pick holes in a film. Capricorn One is a very exciting, thought provoking thriller which still stands up today.

Writer/director Peter Hyams deserves great credit in attempting in just 2 hours screen time to construct a film designed to entertain and at the same time get you thinking. To do full justice to the story line would require another 2 hours, but many people are reluctant to sit through a 4 hour film. Of course it has it's faults but it has very much to commend it such as the exciting action sequences, intelligent and at times very humorous script and convincing performances. One doesn't have to accept the film's premise (hoax Mars/Moon whatever landings) to enjoy this fine film. Judge for yourself. My verdict....9 out of 10.

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32 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Very entertaining thriller

Author: Idocamstuf from Greenville, NY
16 June 2003

I thought this was a very well done, and intelligent thriller. A group of astronauts are about to launch to space, they soon find out that they do not have enough funding, so they must fake the mission anyway, somebody issues a report that the shuttle crashed, and left the men dead, this means that the public has to think that these men are really dead. This is the kind of thriller than they dont make anymore, and its too bad. Also includes a huge cast of famillar faces: James Brolin(Westworld), Telly Savalas(TV's Kojak), Hal Holbrook(Men Of Honor), David Huddleston(The Big Lebowski), and many more star in this first rate thriller. *** out of ****.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

An '70's favorite.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
23 March 2010

Even though this certainly isn't the best movie you'll ever see, it's still a movie that is a perfectly entertaining one. It makes this movie one of my favorite movies to watch from the '70's.

The movie has a really great premise, that provides the movie with plenty of thriller elements and action. It has a lot of elements in it that always make '70's movies such great ones to watch. It's a movie with a conspiracy story but luckily the movie decides to be more entertaining with it than heavy or serious really.

It's really mainly the concept and main story that makes this movie an interesting one as well as entertaining. It doesn't always make the movie the most believable one to watch out there but in this particular case that hardly matters at all. It's such a great and entertaining movie that you're basically willing to forgive everything that is less great about it. It's a movie that I have always enjoyed watching and always will.

Some of the action is really memorable. The plane and helicopters chase in this movie is pretty insane and was obviously very dangerous for all of those involved with it. No way they'll ever do a sequences like that again now days, with all those heavy regulations for stunts and of course the availability of CGI this present time. But of course as you can expect from an '70's movie, there also is plenty of action involving cars and other great action stuff.

What also really uplifts the movie and its action and entertainment value is the great musical score by Jerry Goldsmith.

It's a really well made movie, that got directed with lots of pace by Peter Hyams, who has always been at his best directing action stuff, even though most of his movies aren't exactly among the greatest, this one not included. It also had some real nice camera-work by Bill Butler.

The movie also has a pretty nice cast with Elliott Gould, Hal Holbrook, James Brolin, Sam Waterston and O.J. Simpson involved. Perhaps it's true though that the movie is lacking a clear main character and the movie isn't always clear with on which character it is going to focus with its main plot. Karen Black and Telly Savalas also make some small, almost cameo like appearances in this movie.

One of the most entertaining '70's-flicks out there.


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26 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

The Mars Hoax

Author: Movie_Savage from Hanover, Germany, The Free World
2 January 2006

This movie is indeed a noteworthy sci-fi/conspiracy flick, even after all these years.

Unmistakeably based on the real-life "moon hoax" pseudo-conspiracy, it takes the issue one step further and explores just how far your government might go to cover up its own incapacity and silence everyone who gets in its way (Ironically enough for that matter, the moon landings are portrayed in this movie as a non-hoax and really did take place).

When three would-be Mars astronauts are secretly pulled out of their capsule just minutes before liftoff due to a malfunctioning life support system that would have meant certain death, they are quickly transferred to an abandoned air force base out in the desert. Upon arrival, they are told that they'll have to play make-believe using the facility's very own "Mars" sound stage. It's got everything in place to fool the public about an actual Mars landing. Things go somewhat well and although the astronauts really begin to resent the big swindle they were drawn into, nobody really notices. That is, until their real-life landing capsule disintegrates while re-entering the earth's atmosphere. They figure that now that they're all supposed to be dead, the government will have them killed for real....

So much for the plot, the rest is yours to find out about. Definitely worth watching. One thing though, try to watch it in widescreen - somehow they showed the 4:3 full-frame version on TV here, which was a major drawback considering the movie's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

8 out of 10!

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29 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

A guilty pleasure

Author: Gerald Fitzgerald from Dallas, TX
10 September 2005

One of those movies I'm ashamed to admit that I love. The logic comes and goes in this roller-coaster ride of a film, but the emotional highs are most memorable. One of Elliot Gould's last starring roles. I particularly enjoyed Telly Savalas, who chews the scenery unmercifully but is fun to watch as he saves the day. Also James Brolin, who goes the extra mile and does things that some actors would balk at, such as eating a rattlesnake. When I saw this in the theatre, there were a couple of scenes that had the audience cheering, which is not something one sees very often. And how they ever got NASA to allow them to film has got to be a story in itself, one which I am eager to hear.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Good Escapism!

Author: joposa from United States
22 April 2007

When I first heard of this movie in high school, about the time of its release (it would be years before I would actually see it), I was under the impression that it was sort of an expose, clothed in fiction, of the "moon hoax." Actually, while the makers of this flick were no doubt inspired by these weird theories, they didn't really subscribe to them, which I was gratified to learn.

In Capricorn One, the head of the U.S. Government space agency (a fictional NASA) learns that a planned mission to Mars cannot be accomplished. So, to keep government funding, he decides to stage the mission on a studio set , and will go to all extremes, including murder, to protect the secret. One of the technicians suspects that something isn't quite right with his readings, and tells his bosses about it. Shortly thereafter, he disappears. The tech's close friend, a reporter, probes his friend's mysterious disappearance, meeting intrigue and danger along the way. (Funny how only one "lowly" technician was able to figure it out!)

There are too many holes in the various "moon hoax" theories (there are several different theories, having in common only that they all say NASA fabricated the Apollo missions) to mention here. Capricorn One illustrates one of these holes, in that a very few people were able to fool the entire world, including the Soviets, who would have screamed bloody murder to the world had they even suspected such a hoax. On even a strictly need-to-know basis, at least hundreds would have to be on the inside, and many others participating in the mission, including the "lowly" technicians, would be able to figure out that something was amiss. Also, in Capricorn One, the astronauts were prepared to spill the beans to the world. Why haven't we heard "the truth" from moon hoax insiders?

It's a fun movie to watch, despite some bad writing and dialogue. Just sit back, have some popcorn, and don't take it too seriously

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

" Life on Mars!"

Author: Graham Watson from Gibraltar
3 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a gem of a thriller from the late 70's that has conspiracy over tones right the way through. It was very contemporary for it's time with a fine cast that could easily have been a whose-who guide of American character actors and actresses of that day, indeed many of them are still currently active in Hollywood. Although I did say contemporary, the Apollo space program had been wound up some 5 years earlier and the space shuttle was still a few years away from getting off the ground. However, after Watergate, the loss in Vietnam and a failing economy a cynical American public were probably ready to believe that the Apollo space program was nothing but a hoax!

Many people believe that the Vietnam war was fought primarily to feed the America's huge military industrial complex. Massive government spending was required to keep it going, so what better than a war! Going further, critics say that NASA's Apollo space program which was also known as "the space race" was also politically motivated and just part of the cold war shenanigans. Get to the moon before the soviets to prove who had the best economic and political system as well as creating a feel good factor in the country. NASA was also a large part of the military budget which ran into millions of dollars which many thought was far too much, particularly that there were more pressing economic and social problems at the time at home.

After getting off to a slow start the USA eventually got the better of the USSR and landed men on the moon in 1969. Yet, conspiracy theorists suggest that the moon landings were staged in a studio. They say that the USA simply did not have the technology back in the 1960's to have landed on the moon. Why did they do it? Probably for political purposes too. President Kennedy in 1962 predicted that they would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade and thus keep the USA ahead in the space race. In addition other benefactors of the space program thanks to congress and their ability to appropriate funds provided by the tax payers were the large corporations and their shareholders.

The movie itself is entertaining and the only thing wrong are some of the obvious plot holes that leave more questions than answers. For example the three man crew are hauled off the rocket minutes before it's launch and are then coerced into going along with fake the Mars landing after threats are made against their families. Of course a complicate crew would be vital with such a stunt, but one wonders why the conspirators would not have got volunteers or willing participants to be the crew? It would not be too difficult to find volunteers for the right price! Let's face it if the moon landings were fake, surly they are not saying that all the Apollo astronauts went on their missions under duress!

Also, there is a major mistake when the conscientious engineer (Robert Walden)who tells his superiors that his data from his console indicates that the astronauts transmission seemed to be coming in from only 200 miles away rather than way out in outer space. Wouldn't he have discussed this with his other co-workers and wouldn't this obvious oversight have been discovered by other engineers too? While playing pool in a crowded bar he just simply disappears, with no record of him ever working at NASA and never ever living in his apartment! What about his mum and dad, neighbors, friends and co workers, they all couldn't have been in on it? Be that as it may, they get rid of him effortlessly but then they struggle to get rid of Caulfield (Elliot Gould). This third rate reporter was eventually able give them the slip and carry on with his investigation.

Aother problem is that it is unclear how many people that are involved and how deep it goes? Initially Dr Kelloway (brilliantly played by Hal Holbrooke) says that very few know about what they were doing. Then argues to the bemused astronauts that they have to go along, that things are too big it's out of control, there are too many large and powerful forces that simply have too much to loose if the mission is canceled. I counted about 15 people including the technicians at the studio, Helicopter and jet pilots and presumably CIA or FBI agents. Did they have to take more people into their confidence after Brubaker (James Brolin) and his crew escaped from the sound stage? It's also not clear if congressman Hollis or the general knows about the fake landing nor the need to kill the astronauts after the heat shield failed on re-entry, although it implies it!

All in all an entertaining movie with great dialog, plenty of tension and paranoia. A Great opening monologue from Hal Holbrooke, in fact its just worth watching it for that if nothing else! Superb cinema photography, great sound track and music score from Jerry Goldsmith. If you can ignore the obvious faults it's not a bad watch at all. I would highly recommend this movie!

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