Capricorn One (1977)

The mission was a sham. The murders were real.

In order to protect the reputation of the American space program, a team of scientists stages a phony Mars landing. Willingly participating in the deception are a trio of well-meaning astronauts, who become liabilities when their space capsule is reported lost on re-entry. Now, with the help of a crusading reporter, they must battle a sinister conspiracy that will stop at nothing to keep the truth.

It's a pleasure alright, and I don't feel guilty about it at all!.
A NASA space mission up to Mars fails to get off the ground due to major technical problems. Fearing funding could be taken away and wishing to avoid embarrassment, the powers that be decide to do a fake landing in a studio. With the astronauts forced to pretend that they are actually up on Mars, and fighting with their own personal belief systems, the government executives in charge fear that the fake flight could come to light. Upon learning that the outside world actually thinks they crashed upon reentering the earths atmosphere, the astronauts run for their lives knowing that the government can't afford for the men to stay alive.
Capricorn One is an excellent conspiracy picture that sadly seems to have been largely forgotten. Even today we are still hearing mooted stories of the landing on the moon actually being fake, so here director and writer Peter Hyams takes it and crafts a thrillingly taut piece of work. At the films heart is Elliot Gould's (his great 70s work under valued) intrepid journalist, Robert Caulfield, after being nudged in the ribs by one of his friends at NASA, is himself under threat of death from shadowy government types who will think of nothing to offing him along with the astronauts.
The film is split into two very significant halves, the first half is the set up, the conversations before and after the fake landing are clever and crucially attention grabbing, and of course we get to know our characters with the right amount of time. The film then shifts for the second half into a quality thriller chase movie, our main protagonists pursued by the government assassins courtesy of two gun toting helicopters. Jerry Goldsmith's score brilliantly becoming part of the chase sequences, making the helicopters seem like death stalking machines operated by no man alone. We even get Telly Savalas joining us for the last quarter with a highly fun and enjoyable portrayal as a crop dusting knight in red shiny armour, and the finale positively rocks and finishes the film on the high note it promised all along. James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O.J. Simpson, Hal Holbrook and Karen Black fill out the rest of the cast with much credit indeed.
Capricorn One, criminally undervalued, and perhaps even more sad, forgotten. 8/10

Associated General Films, ITC by Peter Hyams.
Stars: Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Thriller

Keywords: helicopter planet mars nasa texas spacecraft beguilement crop duster conspiracy escape astronaut desert investigative reporter launchpad


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