Really good conspiracy thrillers are not common. One of my favourites is The Parallax View, but I also like Capricorn One, which I’ve just watched again, after such a long gap that I’d forgotten most of the detail of the story.
The idea is very appealing. NASA is about to send a rocket to Mars for a manned landing. But just before take-off, the astronauts are taken away to a secret hideaway, although the rocket goes off into space and the watching world is led to believe that the astronauts are on board. The explanation is that, due to an equipment malfunction, the trip became unsafe, but the authorities (led by the apparently pleasant but in truth fanatical Hal Holbrook) are determined to fake a landing on the Red Planet.
Elliot Gould plays a reporter who gets wind that something is amiss with Capricorn One, and although there are various (rather sporadic, I have to say) attempts to silence him, he pursues the truth against the odds. Meanwhile, the hoax goes wrong when the rocket crashes on its return to Earth – so the astronauts (with James Brolin to the fore) have to be dispensed with. They escape, but only into the unforgiving desert.
The action sequences in the film are terrific, and Peter Hyams, the director, ensures the story moves along with gusto, so that one is inclined to forgive most if not all of the implausibilities in the plot – after all, how many thrillers are totally plausible in every respect?
One bit of trivia that intrigued me – the two stars, Gould and Brolin, have both been married to Barbra Streisand.