Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Capricorn One

Capricorn One; Science-fiction drama/ Satire, USA, 1978; D: Peter Hyams, S: James Brolin, Elliott Gould, Sam Waterston, O. J. Simpson, Hal Holbrook, Brenda Vaccaro, Karen Black, Telly Savalas

The whole nation is glued to the TV screens when the first manned mission to Mars is about to take place. But unknown to all, the three astronauts - Brubaker, Willis, Walker - are in the last minute evacuated from the rocket and transported to an isolated studio. To their surprise, the NASA official Kelloway tells them the trip to Mars is too risky, so they will have to fake the landing in the studio with fake sets and cameras. As months pass, the astronauts act as if they are on Mars, even though they feel ashamed. But when the real rocket returns from Mars and explodes in Earth's atmosphere, the astronauts run away from the studio. Two die in the desert, but Brubaker is saved by a cynical reporter, Caulfield, who brings him back home.

In the long list of 'political paranoia' films of the 1970's, "Capricorn One" deliberately pulls along with it's unbelievably cynical story about a fake Mars landing all kinds of 'collateral' conspiracy theory connotations directly linked with the Moon landing hoax allegations. To director and writer Peter Hyams, the message of the film is that even if some great events in history were a lie, we wouldn't know about it if they looked real. He does cope well at some points of the story, especially in the first half that contains a juicy zoom-out shot of an astronaut's helmet surrounded by red dust, just to reveal it's not Mars but just a studio set on Earth with numerous cameras, yet it's shot in elliptical order and thus it seems some big chunks of the story are missing, like what the astronauts were doing the whole 8 months hiding in the studio. Hyams scratches some big issues like they were uninteresting, while numerous events are illogical and implausible, yet the author always keeps up his restless spirit, the sequence with the speeding car without breaks driving through town shown from the point-of-view of the vehicle is virtuoso directed while the main subplot about the cynical reporter Caulfied (great Elliott Gould) who uncovers the story is admittedly shaky, but gives a connection with the "outside world" that is needed as a counterpoint to the astronaut story. The story is better than the final result, but even that result deserves a cult status for it's crazy enthusiasm.


No comments: