Charles Brubaker (James Brolin) is a highly decorated astronaut who has been selected to lead NASA's first manned mission to Mars, also known as Capricorn One. Seconds before launch, Brubaker and his team of astronauts are pulled off the rocket, which takes off unmanned towards Mars. Brubaker and the crew are met by Dr. James Kelloway, a high ranking NASA official, who explains to them that a faulty life-support system was discovered minutes before launch, which would have undoubtedly killed the crew if not discovered. Needing good publicity to keep their Space program alive, Dr. James Kelloway and NASA want to falsify the Mar's landing, attempting to convince Brubaker and his fellow astronauts that staging the landing is important for national morale and patriotism, as they are merely doing their civic duty by going along with this massive government hoax. The astronauts are reluctant but threats to their families by corrupt government officials force them to go along. Peter Hyams' Capricorn One is very much a film of its time, dripping in paranoia and distrust in the establishment. This is a film that wastes little time in the beginning establishing much of anything, opting instead to throw the viewer right into action, forcing them to pick up the pieces as they go along. This of course works very well, given the nature of the film, with the audience just as confused as the astronauts are, when they are pulled off the mission at the last second. The film effectively evokes a dual narrative for much of its running time, one involving Charles Brubaker's attempted escape from the government and one involving journalist Robert Caulfield, the man on the outside that begins to discover the government cover-up. These two character's paths eventually align in the desert with the film's action centerpiece, a aeronautical chase sequence that's riveting. While the script itself plods along with a few too many conveniences for my liking, perhaps Capricorn One's most important attribute was its ability to further establish Peter Hyams as an action filmmaker to watch.
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