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Directed by Directed by Peter Hyams
Written by Written by Peter Hyams
Starring Starring Elliott Gould, James Brolin, O.J. Simpson, Sam Waterston
Produced by Produced by Paul N. Lazarus III
So Lions Gate, for reasons that baffle me to this very second, apparently decided they were running out of direct to video horror titles to release into the marketplace and instead started digging around in their vaults. They then found Capricorn One, a development that I’m actually glad for.
The plot is actually fairly complex—a space capsule meant to carry three astronauts has a major mechanical failure. True to life, this failure means bad news for NASA, whose funding is hanging on by a thread as it is. This failure may well mean the end of the space program. So in a last-ditch effort to save a whole bunch of cushy government jobs, the head of the space program stages a Mars landing set and attempts to convince the astronauts involved to work with him. And by “convince”, of course, I mean “threaten to kill their families”. The only way the space program can ensure that their ruse will go unnoticed is to arrange for the deaths of the astronauts upon the space capsule’s “re-entry”. The astronauts aren’t terribly interested in cooperating at that point, and stage a desperate escape attempt while an investigative journalist pieces together the clues that something is gravely wrong from outside the whole thing.
It may be one of the deepest and most complex movies I’ve seen in a while—in fact, it’s almost TWO movies packaged together in one. You have the astronauts on the one hand trying desperately to escape various assassination attempts, and you have the journalist trying desperately to figure out what’s going on while dodging various assassination attempts. By the time the two stories coincide, you’ve got a real barnburner of an action flick here with just a little schmeer of science fiction.
Remember all those tinfoil-hat types that swore up and down the moon landing was faked? Well, here’s a fair idea of how it may have went down. It’s doubly interesting seeing the effect get staged with a Martian surface, and is sufficient to make you wonder: with all our CURRENT technology, what could we fake right this second if we were sufficiently inclined to do so? I bet we could CG-up a spectacular fake Martian landscape. Bet we could land on Pluto next month!
But my own tinfoil-hatting aside, Capricorn One is a fun and action-packed look at government chicanery, especially welcome in these times.
The ending, however, is a little hackneyed and running a bit toward cheesy—I would’ve liked to see more aftermath of the whole affair than I did. Still, not terrible, and not much of an impediment to the rest of the movie.
The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, audio options, audio commentary tracks, a behind the scenes featurette and a trailer for Capricorn One.
All in all, this blast from the far-distant past shows us that, even back then, people suspected the government of malfeasance enough to make a movie about it. Kinda nice to get a bit of touchstone into the past, especially one so downright entertaining.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
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