Despite the fanciful premise, this a smart, taut, and breathless film from Peter Hyams,that involves the viewer both emotionally and intellectually, leading to a most satisfying ending.
Capricorn One (1977)
User ReviewsReview this title
Despite the fanciful premise, this a smart, taut, and breathless film from Peter Hyams,that involves the viewer both emotionally and intellectually, leading to a most satisfying ending.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
In a nutshell, Capricorn One is a film about a NASA hoax where astronauts perform a Mars landing on a soundstage fooling the country and families of the astronauts alike. The film revolves around the drama and conspiracies of what is going on within the confines of NASA and the struggles of the astronauts trying to maintain the secret. The rest is pretty self explanatory and you just have to watch the film to see all the events of the film unfold! This movie has a lot of pluses going for it. Great cast, great storyline, and overall it is just a great film. For a while I forgot I was watching a movie that is almost 40 years old now! The only bumps in this movie are in the scientific area. The Saturn V was no where powerful enough to travel to Mars. The ships were too small to carry enough oxygen and supplies for such a trip. The LEM from the Moon was the same design for Mars, and the LEM was completely incapable of ever landing on Mars. One of the main (and only) reasons I am docking a few points for the film is that they blatantly ignored scientific facts about landing on Mars. Even someone that doesn't know NASA science that well should know that a LEM cannot land on Mars and how ridiculous the entire concept of the Mars mission in this film was. Besides the scientific fact, I won't spoil the movie but I was hoping for a more "satisfying" ending...
Overall, Capricorn One is a great movie.One of the reasons I think this movie has been "swept under the rug" (meaning you don't see it much on streaming services such as Netflix or hear about it much in modern times) is I think because of O.J. Simpson's notoriety. This film is a great movie with a diverse cast and you are missing out on a great film (as well as not admiring the performance from the rest of the cast) by avoiding this film simply because of O.J. Simpson. This film came out far before he ever committed any crimes or had any notoriety. If you get the chance, check out this film. It is very enjoyable and I hope some day it gets a proper remastering in blu ray!
Stylistic examples include wide angle shots and slow, mechanical camera movements that give the viewer a disturbing feeling of voyeurism or disconnection from humanity (à la "Open the pod bay doors, Hal." "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid can't do that."). This quiet yet bone-chilling style is the opposite of MTV-type filmmaking which made heavy use of flashy, closeup, disorienting camera shots cut together so quickly that you feel like someone slipped some magic pixie dust in your Kool-Aid. No, the 70s classics, in particular "Capricorn One" and other films by Peter Hyams, instead give you long, deliberate shots from a distance, allowing you to absorb every bizarre detail that was meticulously laid out for you.
If you get bored easily, then this isn't for you. But if you're looking for a film that slowly reels you in without any gimmicks, carefully building momentum for the 1st hour leading to an explosive, roller-coaster finale, then look no further. It's best if you know nothing about the story, so I won't say anything about the plot except that it centers around a mission to Mars. But this is not a sci-fi flick, it's closer to a political thriller.
"Capricorn One" won't necessarily scare the pants off you like some of the other films, but the story will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what's going to happen. The director never telegraphs the ending, so you're never quite sure if things will turn out good or if it'll be a miserable tragedy. You have to ride it out to the very last scene.
Two things won me over immediately. First is the careful, artistic approach to cinematography which is evident in the opening scene: a slow rusty sunrise behind the colossal silhouette of the Capricorn spacecraft. Many other shots are as powerful, whether they're outdoors or indoors. Hyams frequently does a neat little trick where he establishes a shot and leaves the camera where it is but slowly, over the course of 2 minutes or more, moves the camera in or out of the action, creating a thick suspense.
The 2nd thing that won me over was something many thrillers overlook: HUMOR. There are some priceless scenes that had me rolling, and it's all due to the great script and lines delivered by great actors. Telly Savalas makes an appearance as a grumpy old airplane pilot, and his rapid fire volley of dialogue with Elliot Gould is like something straight out of a Cary Grant-Catherine Hepburn comedy. Another hilarious rapid-fire comedic scene is Elliot Gould arguing with his boss, played by David Doyle ("Bosley" on the original Charlie's Angels). Big laughs without disrupting the tension of the story. It takes a bold filmmaker to put such comedy in a serious film, and Hyams & his acting troupe succeeded brilliantly.
A final note that's worth mentioning: there's a scene where a snake meets with an unfortunate fate. While the snake is real (hats off to James Brolin for having the guts do the scene), the snake's stunt double was a dead carcass they had found. No snakes were harmed. So animal lovers as well as 70s thriller lovers, have no fear. Once you start watching "Capricorn One", nothing will make you Sat-turn the channel! (wow that was lame)
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!
NASA's first manned flight to Mars is about to lift off. The three man crew Charles Brubaker(James Brolin), Peter Willis(Sam Waterston)and John Walker (O.J Simpson)are removed from the capsule before takeoff. They are flown to a remote base far away from any inhabited area.
Demanding answers they learn that the capsules life support system was shown to be faulty, revealing that and cancelling the mission would have given the government a perfect opportunity to end the space programme on the grounds of financial cost. Dr. James Kelloway(Hal Holbrook)is a high ranking NASA employee, he threatens the lives of the Astronauts families and persuades the Astronauts to fake TV transmissions as if they were flying to Mars and landing on the planet. Using recordings of the crew from the test simulations Mission Control thinks the crew are aboard the spacecraft.
NASA Technician Elliot Whitter(Robert Walden)suspects something is wrong when he notices strange readouts, he reports this to his superiors. He also tells his friend Robert Caulfield(Elliott Gould)who is a reporter. When Whitter disappears, Caulfield does some investigating of his own.
In a TV studio on the base, a fake Martian landscape is set up for the transmissions, the crew must step before the cameras trying to think of some way of communicating something is wrong.When the craft is destroyed in space the crew can't be released because the hoax would be exposed. They try and escape but are pursued by agents intent on killing them.
This is a real tense thriller. Goldsmith's score fits well with the film and the cast are all quite good. Telly Savalas is hysterical as a rude crop duster who helps Caulfield. Brenda Vaccaro is moving as Brubaker's wife Kay, the scene where she reads to her children while trying not to cry is very touching.
I liked the film but have a couple of complaints. One is with the ending, yes you can argue that at that moment the truth is out but I wanted more. It couldn't have hurt to make the ending a bit longer and show us justice being done. Secondly it seems that the crew didn't put up enough of a fight when they are ordered to take part in the hoax, yes their families are threatened but they are shown no proof to back up what they are told, we are also never shown proof of what Kelloway tells them regarding their families. How did they know that it wasn't just a bluff? Apart from those things though this is a really good film. One of my favourite films from the 1970's.
James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and O.J. Simpson portray the three men who are about to embark on a ten-month space voyage whose ultimate goal is a manned walk on Mars. But just minutes before their ship, Capricorn One, is to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center, they are immediately ordered off; and the spacecraft launches to Mars without them. Bewildered and upset, they are then told by NASA's director (Hal Holbrook) that the life support system built into the spacecraft was faulty and that it is likely that it would have failed before the ship could ever get into Mars' orbit. They are instead ordered to "fake" the landing and the Mars walk on a soundstage in a hangar somewhere in the Mojave Desert, much against their principles though under the threat of their families being killed. But when the spacecraft they are supposedly coming home in loses its heat shield upon re-entry, everyone presumes that the three men have been incinerated. The trouble is, of course, that all three men are actually alive and well, and Holbrook knows that the space program's continued success is incumbent upon them never appearing anywhere in public again.
In steps an enterprising news reporter (Elliott Gould) who, against all odds and some very sardonic colleagues, investigates the Capricorn One incident and uncovers the truth, only to be pursued by military personnel in Blackhawk choppers. In the meantime, Brolin, Waterston, and Simpson break out of the hangar and escape into the Mojave Desert. Only Brolin is able to evade capture or death, however; and it is only through the quick thinking of Gould and an eccentric crop-dusting pilot (Telly Savalas) that he is able to sort everything out for the world.
Writer/director Peter Hyams, whose later sci-fi forays included the HIGH NOON-inspired 1981 opus OUTLAND, and the much-underrated 1984 film "2010" (the sequel to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick classic 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) directs with a good flair for suspense sequences, especially Brolin's struggle for survival in the desert as he is chased by government agents, including loose homages to both Kubrick's DOCTOR STRANGELOVE and Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He also gets good performances from his cast, however, not only from Brolin, Simpson, and Waterston as the beleaguered would-be heroes, but also from Holbrook, who does a typically solid turn as the NASA bureaucrat with a mess on his hands. The Mars landing sequences, though done on a soundstage for obvious reasons, have a crazy kind of realism to them, thanks to the special effects work of Bruce Mattox, Henry Millar, and Robert Spurlock, and the solid cinematography of Butler, who worked on Steven Spielberg's 1975 suspense masterpiece JAWS. Goldsmith, who had won an Oscar for THE OMEN in 1976, and whose sci-fi credits include PLANET OF THE APES, also provides a tense and dramatic score, with almost Stravinsky-like menace.
CAPRICORN ONE is not necessarily the perfect science fiction film; one can spot a number of implausible situations right off. That said, however, it was definitely one of those films that was right for its time, in that it managed to attach something as honorable as manned space travel to a Watergate-type of cover-up scenario. Even if the plot doesn't hold up to 21st century standards (and it may have bee hard to imagine even back in 1978), it still (rightly) made a big deal about how our government too often attempts to dissemble the truth.
I love the idea that we are kept in the dark almost as much as the astronauts. We see the Brubaker character stay in control as the mission changes from one of survival in space, to one of preserving their families and the big secret, to one of personal survival in the desert.
I love the scene where the plane taking them to the splash down site turns back suddenly as the capsule burns up, and Brubaker works this out at the same time as it is announced.
The desert scenes have some great shots that really build the tension. I particularly like the idea of using the flares to show when someone has been caught. You see the pressure to survive building, but also the feeling of how impossible it is to beat the faceless Government agency that wants the astronauts dead illustrated by some great shots of the plain black helicopters hunting.
My favourite scene is the one with Willis showing incredible endurance and determination using everything to get to climb to the top of a cliff, only to find the two sinister helicopters already waiting patiently at the top for him to come to them. When the flare goes up you think Brubaker has no chance. The coldness of the mission commander organising the hunt and correctly second guessing the actions of the astronauts as they try to survive based on his personal knowledge of them adds even more.
I don't think this film has aged badly. Still a favourite of mine.
Fine performances also from Hal Halbrook, Brenda Vaccaro, Robert Walden and Elliot Gould. Gould actually has the most exciting scene of the movie. He tries to blow the whistle on the hoax and someone fixes his car to malfunction.
Interesting movie that gives you something to think about.
In the movie,this whole performance was to make people believe the astronauts actually landed on Mars.This trickery,isn't it what Peter Hyams (and all other directors!) does when he makes his movie?His whole performance is to make US believe that Astronauts are to land on Mars but... They do it with mirrors,like Jorge Luis Borges.
The second part of the movie is a chase,a well done thriller,in landscapes recalling "Planet of the apes(1968)".Hyams does not show the killings,and the way James Brolin manages to show the way to his wife,then to journalist Gould is pretty smart.The ending verges on black humor.Had this movie been released five or ten years sooner,when sci-fi had strong scripts ,it would have been deservedly acclaimed.But in the land of special effects and childish stories ,it became a sleeper,every sci-fi buff should know.Neither "outland" (some kind of remake of "high noon " on Jupiter),nor "2010" (which failed dismally as a "2001" sequel)is on a par with "capricorn one".
The film opens with a blacked out screen with a man introducing the mission launch to gathering (unseen) journalists. This is a solid start and it continues in an aborted launch that immediately sets up a premise that is so simple and so effective that it promises a great film to come. However from the moment the astronauts escape the film has already taken a real dip from the good start. What spoils it is the writing; the start gives it the foundation to build on but it doesn't manage to build very much at all. Things happen but there is no consistent tension or excitement to speak of the astronauts are forced into one-off moments of danger but that's about it; this leaves Caulfield as the main thread which, while enjoyable, still doesn't manage to cut it. The film should have been tighter, with a deeper conspiracy, a tangible threat and a real sense of it being a race against time but it doesn't manage it. It still remains interesting and watchable but the word 'thriller' is not one that I would pick.
The film ends in a stronger final 20 minutes where we get a helicopter chase and some well shot scenes with a crop duster but even these are filled with the same lack of logic that the middle section of the film suffers from. Sadly even an exciting conclusion gives way to a rubbish final shot of slow-mo sentiment. The cast are part of the reason that the film is watchable as they are quite good even if the material lets many of them down. Gould is always watchable even though his section should have been much more dramatic. Of the astronauts, Brolin is OK, Waterson has an average character and Simpson is wisely given little opportunity to flex his acting muscles. Holbrook starts with a good sense of conspiratorial menace but the film practically forgets he is there and he just slips away. Black is wasted and she doesn't even look like she wants to be there, but the presence of Huddleston is always welcome. Savalas is good value even if he seems to have walked in from another film but he is good fun and breathes quite a lot of life back into what was becoming a rather stale affair.
Overall this is watchable and quite enjoyable but it is frustrating to see the potential of the premise wasted. The opening 30 minutes is great and sets up a tense film that is sadly never forthcoming. The majority of the film after the rocket is destroyed goes gradually downhill as logic fails and it totally fails to ratchet up the tension in the manner it really should have. Watchable but it should have been loads better I'm not a remake fan per se, but surely somebody can remake this film and make good on the potential.
The concept might have been brilliant, were it not for the dogged naïveté exhibited by the screenwriters and technical personnel, all of whom, it is patently obvious, have never even push-buttoned a blender from Wal-Mart, let alone worked or even been allowed *near* the fail-safe redundant systems inherent in the NASA space vehicle program.
A manned mission to Mars is subverted by the very organization that launches it – NASA. Apparently, the Mars capsule's life-support system would have failed, killing the three astronauts (a boring Sam Waterston, an ineffectual James Brolin and an as-yet-unindicted O.J. Simpson). In an inspired asinine turn, instead of mathematically proving that they had the grounds to sue the vendors who created the faulty system (and to snidely appropriate promised funding should the mission be a success) NASA executives dive off the deep end to waste incalculable time and energy on duplicity which doesn't rectify any problems, save any money, or justify any effort, by staging a fake Mars landing on a studio set, whilst confining the astronauts against their will for the duration of the "mission".
Earth's media actually buys it – which begs a treatise on stupidity at least as extensive as an Encyclopedia Britannica 24-volume set – and everything goes swimmingly until the returning Mars rocket explodes on re-entry and NASA finds that, in order to continue the ruse, dem po astronauts got to go anyways – but now *NASA's* going to kill them instead! 'Twould be bittersweet irony if it weren't so damn retarded.
The underlying motive behind all government collusion of this ilk is that massive *profits* be gleaned from the deception. But even with the aforementioned "funding", the cover-up costs alone for such a slipshod conspiracy's execution would far outweigh any reimbursement brought about by legal income. And that's considering that the cover-up was a success – the fake mission itself was so sophomorically staged that it could've been picked apart by any first-year actor pretending to be a lawyer in any court of law at any time.
Writer/Director Peter Hyams' story-telling incompetence is astounding to behold: to fool the whole flight-ops crew and the media into believing the mission is underway, the conspirators "replay the radio transmissions of the astronauts' recorded trial runs over the intercom". Would this fool *anyone* remotely cognizant of human communication, let alone every single veteran technician in constant contact with the Mars spacecraft? Hyams likes to think we're stupid enough to believe so. Hal Holbrook (as the NASA executive helming the conspiracy) almost seems embarrassed when he voices this idiocy.
Conspiracy Theorists must have thrown a week-long booze-up when this movie hit cinemas, cries of "We told you so!" reverberating off their Lonely-Guy hobbit-hole walls, postered with tech specs, affidavits, diagrams and blurry photos all "proving" that the Moon landings were faked as well.
Hyams' decision to place NASA - one of the few truly respected, sorely under-funded, genuinely intellectually adroit institutions on earth - at the heart of this conspiracy is defamation of the highest degree. And then (like the Moon-Fakers) to afford them not one jot of respect, by performing exactly zilch amount of research in the field of manned space missions. Technical malfeasance is elevated to the status of a "given", as scene after scene insults audience intelligence by trying to sneak in any budget generic hardware or scenery or gadget that looks "scientific" and by sprinkling the dialog with any technical terms that *sound* scientific to further the ill-contrived illusion. Trust me – it's *all* bogus. There is no single area where one can begin to effectively critique the lack of dedication towards any kind of plausibility which would lever this film above that of cack wedged between the treads of my shoe.
Intermittent snappy dialog between Elliot Gould (when he was still a leading man) and cross-eyed Karen Black is the only respite in a film overburdened with superfluous dialog (OJ Simpson talking to himself as he collapses in the desert), pointless dialog ("I'm four steps from the bottom, I'm three steps from the bottom, I'm two steps from the bottom", as a crewman descends to the "Martian" surface), and downright idiotic dialog (Telly Savalas' opening lines. And *all* the "technical" claptrap).
The most dangerous aspect of a hideously-deformed piece of trash like this film is the overwhelming sludge of misinformation it purveys. Use the time you would have wasted on this movie reading a book by Carl Sagan or Richard P. Feynman. Not only will you be more entertained – Ya Might Jess Learn Yaself Sumpin'.
(Movie Maniacs, visit: www.poffysmoviemania.com)
They make it into the middle of a wasteland before their airplane runs out of fuel and crash lands. Then they stride off in three different directions in hopes that one of them will find a phone booth, a police station, a hospital, a newspaper, or a Starbucks coffee shop.
A grueling trek ensues. O. J. and Waterston are picked up and -- well, we don't find out what happened to them except that they disappear. Let's hope they didn't disappear to the same place that nosy technician disappeared to when he twigged on the ruse at Command Control.
Hyams hasn't written what anyone would call a tight plot. The faked jump from the landing module to the surface of "Mars" ("We make this leap in the name of all mankind") ought to be one of, if not THE, most gripping moment in the story. It raises all sorts of questions. Who wrote their phony dialog from Mars? ("The surface seems powdery.") Who dreamed up the Martian landscape? But it lasts no more than five minutes and the backdrop and lighting look as slapped together as in a "Dragnet" episode.
The dialog is no help either. "This is a good, old-fashioned, American, can-do, red-white-and-blue favor I'm asking." (Something like that.) The characters are stereotypes. Brolin is the sober commander of the three. Waterston provides the comic relief, which isn't very comic. O. J. has no lines to speak of -- just as well.
Hyams does much better with the action scenes. There's an out-of-control speeding car with Eliot Gould, as a meddlesome reporter, behind the wheel. No brakes, he can't shut the ignition off, the parking brake doesn't work, he can't down shift, an open drawbridge looms in the offing, and -- well, you know how it goes by now. It's exciting. It would have been just as exciting if the camera hadn't been under cranked to speed up the motion artificially. And you can pretty much tell this is a post-"French Connection" film because a camera is mounted on the speeding car at about one foot above the zipping pavement.
Motion is accelerated during the airplane chase too, where it REALLY doesn't belong, but the chase itself -- two armed government helicopters after a beat-up old biplane, swooping down among the desert canyons, looping around crags, without CGIs -- is thrilling. And obviously dangerous. The airplanes banging their parts against one another are real in a way the dinosaurs of "Jurassic Park" never were. And I don't know whether Hyams intended this to be "cute" or not, but the two diminutive military helicopters acts like individuals. They fly in single file and when they find something interesting, they hover and turn face to face, as if having a conversation. When they make a "decision", they practically nod in agreement, then they turn in the same direction and fly off together again. They do this several times. It's like watching an animated cartoon on Saturday morning TV.
Goldsmith's score is bound to the genre, but it's a good one, and you can hear echoes of "Chinatown" in the thrumming of piano wires.
A very mixed bag but worth seeing. (I kind of like movies in which people get lost in deserts.) Evidently Hyams had tried to put such a film together earlier but wasn't able to do so until after Watergate. (Kids, "Watergate" is the name of a Washington scandal that led to a president's resignation in 1974. This movie came out the following year. PS: That would be 1975.) Of course, now, in 2007, I don't think Hyams or anybody else would have much trouble.
In the near future, three American astronauts Brubaker, Walker, and Willis (James Brolin, O.J. Simpson, and Sam Waterston) are in a space capsule preparing for liftoff of the first manned mission to Mars. During the final countdown, they are hurriedly escorted out of the spacecraft and flown to a remote desert military base. NASA brass, led by Dr. Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) have discovered that a faulty life-support system would doom the astronauts, but since NASA needs a success story, the spacecraft is allowed to lift off without a crew. The astronauts must then perpetrate a Mars landing hoax using earthbound sets in a warehouse studio. Alert NASA technician Elliot Whitter (Robert Walden) notices that signals from Mars arrive far ahead of schedule, and alerts his friend, chain-smoking reporter Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould).
Whitter promptly disappears without a trace, after which several attempts are made on Caulfield's life. Meanwhile, when the unmanned spacecraft is destroyed upon re-entry, the astronauts realize that their lives are in danger and escape into the desert. Walker and Willis are captured by bad NASA guys in black (actually dark green) helicopters, but Brubaker escapes with the help of Caulfield and irascible crop dusting pilot Albain (Telly Savalas) in an exciting and frantic chase sequence. The final scene has the supposedly "dead" Brubaker showing up at his own funeral.
The top cast, great direction, intelligent script, and breathtaking aerial scenes really set "Capricorn One" apart from many other 1970s government-conspiracy films. In particular, Brolin and Holbrook stand out among all the fine actors here. Karen Black and Savalas make the most of their screen time with good performances. If you can keep from laughing at the 1970s hair styles and clothing, you'll have a great time. This riveting though far-fetched film will certainly entertain you.