Eric 'Renderking' Fisk - March 26th, 2010
This is hard to imagine. After I saw this movie the first time when I was 11 or 12 years old, the only thing I could remember about this conspiracy theory movie were the confusing images about Mars, and James Browlin eating a freshly killed rattle snake in cave somewhere out in the desert. When you're 40-something and you've grown more cynical about the government and you can't swing a dead webmaster on the internet with out hitting a site with a crazy conspiracy theory, this motion picture packs a little more punch.
Despite the movies flaws and it's datedness, this motion picture asks then explores some powerful and disturbing questions - could our government pull off the biggest lie? Would agency leaders even try? Could so many underlings go along with it while keeping their mouths shut? If the answer is "yes" to only a few of those questions... then society is far worse off then I thought.
"Capricorn One" tells the convoluted and contrived story about Big Government and Big Industry faking the first manned mission to Mars, thinking that using movie-magic it would be less expensive than fixing the flawed space craft. James Brolin, Sam Waterson and wife killer O.J. Simpson star as the astronauts coerced into taking part of this conspiracy after the lives of their wives and children are threatened and told that this lie is for the greater good of society. In essence they are told that America needs this victory, we need this achievement. Imagine for a minute how wonderful it would be for all of mankind, what a unifying moment when we demonstrate what we can achieve when we come together for a common cost. We can accomplish anything...
Yes, We Can. Make The World A Better Place. For Hope. And Change. Yes We Can.
Eliot Gould reprises his performance from Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye" in his roll of Robert Caulfield, a local reporter who has a troublesome past because he shoots from the hip. Caulfield stumbles on this conspiracy when one of his close friends who works for NASA tells him about the problems with his work stations at mission control. Caulfield's friend claims the data coming back from "Mars" is physically impossible. This reporter starts to do some off-the-clock investigative reporting after his friend from NASA suddenly disappears, and once he talks with one of the astronaut's wives, he puts two and two together.
When Caulfield is sent work on another story on something more "down to Earth," he tells everything he can to his assignment editor "Walter Loughlin," played by comedian and "Charlie's Angels" star David Boyle. The scene is filled with of great exposition dialog that illustrates how Caulfield has made mountains out of molehills in the past and it's hard for Loughlin to take his claims of "something big" happening seriously... Caulfield has embellished facts in the past, why should Loughlin believe him now?
As foretold earlier in this motion picture by some of the other characters including Hal Holbrook as a Dick Cheney archetype, the cost cutting measures on the Capricorn Mission cause a catastrophic failure and the capsule is lost during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. The plan falls apart since everyone at mission control saw the alerts and 'red lights' on their computer screens.
Since the astronaut's capsule is destroyed and the public 'knows' the astronauts were killed, the real astronauts have to die. Since trained military pilots aren't killed so easily by government lackeys and a chase through the desert where the fake landing was filmed. [Don't worry, nobody wearing a fedora gets dragged by a truck this time. Although a good wide brim, tall crown topper on James Brolin's or Eliott Gould's melon would make those costumes a little more tolerable and make this film just a little more relevant for The Chronicles.]
It's not clear what happens to the two who are captured. Only one of them escapes with out being recaptured and makes a surpise apperence at the most akward moments. ["Aren't you supposed to be dead?"]
The questions are left unanswered - what happens after one of the Astronauts shows up alive and well to his own funeral? What happens when the people of The United States loses their faith and trust for Washington after they have been so clearly lied to about a martian landing? Why wasn't there ever a sequel? I think to some extent the aftermath of "Capricorn One" is far more interesting then the actual motion picture.
Trillion Dollar Lies...
There are aspects of the motion picture that are important to those of us living in the here-and-now. Specify this addresses the claims made by people who are perceived as crackpots who believe that much of what we believe is 'history' is actually faked. Most specify the original Apollo 11 lunar landing and now the tragedy on September 11th, 2001. What happens to all the "Caulfields" out there when they have 'cried wolf' so many times and have to tell the "Loughlin's" that this time they really mean it? What happens after countless times we're told make believe stories by crackpots that there really are bad things happening and then something for real happens? That leads to a lack of credibility to the people who insist that there's something "bigger" going on.
At this point in my life I have to side with The Conspiracy Theorists who make their claims for what they are - theories. I have to side with the people who don't believe the government any more when they tell us they have to rush into action to fix problems the government itself helped to create...
Does everyone have to take a vaccination with unknown ingredients for a flu virus that turned out to be pretty mild?
Did we really need to bail-out two of the biggest automakers in The United States when the third made it clear that if everyone starts making good, reliable products again profitability will soon return?
Why is it that not enough people in the media are questioning the bail-outs for banks and insurance companies like "A.I.G." when it was government deregulation and inappropriate loan practices that was mandated by the government who created the Mortgage Backed Security fiasco? Why is the media being silent on this issue? And why are those of us who are asking these questions being labeled as enemies of the state?
We were warned by experts during the mid-1990's that we were setting ourselves up for a crisis by allowing these banks to join the mega-mergers. We were warned that someday they would become "too big to fail," and now nobody in the media is bringing those people back on to explain how they saw this coming. Where are those people now?
What about the concerns when Washington rushed to get "The Patriot Act" through? It's easy to be for it when the original goal was to hunt down Islamic fundamentalists who wanted to be the next group of "September 11th martyrs". What about when the definition of "terrorist" is expanded to include citizens who are nonconformists and are debating the validity of the government's claims that they need to hand out money to fix the very problems they had a hand in creating? What about when the government demands new executive powers that are unconstitutional?
There was a time when I thought that the premises of "Capricorn One" was impossible. How could so many people be a part of conspiracy and not speak up and make these events public. No matter how many people you tell to keep quiet under the threat of death, there's always one nut (like myself?) who thinks he's invincible or the truth is too important. There has to be someone who believes in the concept of values and morality in every situation.
Then I started to notice and experience events that should never have happened because they were once deemed "unconstitutional." Things that have happened to me or that I've observed only belong on the pages of a suspense novel or a motion picture script. There actually are people who are being targeted just for asking questions. There are now "enemies lists" and "watch lists" that Presidents, Congressmen, and Senators keep... and that doesn't seem to trouble the same people who thought that behavior was disturbing when the opposing party did it. I guess two wrongs make a right when it's your people committing the wrong doing and you can use someone else's errors of judgment as justification.
What frightens me now more then ever is that "Capricorn One" has a better chance of happening now than it did when this motion picture was made since there seems to me so many willing participants. There are more people who are willing to listen to a charismatic leader and go along with dubious policies because "the ends justify the means." We're not ready to make a trillion-dollar lie to pretend to go to Mars, but there are other "Trillion Dollar" lies in the making.