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Film review — Capricorn One

I half-watched this one on TV many moons ago, so my impression of this grand-conspiracy ’70s paranoia thriller was blown away by the actual plot, which is a lot less exciting but far more plausible: NASA needs a successful mission to Mars to secure its future funding, but a penny-pinching contractor means they’re left with a fucked life-support system (think of all those ‘PPE’ contracts at the start of the pandemic) so they have to fake it. The proud astronauts take some convincing, particularly James Brolin who doesn’t seem to have any political acuity. But things are going grand until a nosy engineer at Mission Control needs sorting out, catching the nose of Elliott Gould’s conspiracy-chasing newsman, while an unexpected calamity with the returning (empty) launch capsule means the astronaut trio must be eliminated, turning this into a low-effort take on Figures in a Landscape. It all gets a bit too much in the final stretch when Telly Savalas shows up as the wacky crop-duster pilot who unwittingly saves the day, like an inverse North by Northwest. ★★★

Cross-posted from Letterboxd