Capricorn One

  • Directors: Peter Hyams
  • Producers: Paul N Lazarus III
  • Writers: Peter Hyams
  • Genres: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O J Simpson, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, Telly Savalas, David Huddleston, David Doyle, James Karen

The setting is the late 1970s, and the first manned mission to Mars is on the launch pad. NASA authorities including Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) realize that a faulty life support system has doomed any chance of a successful flight, so for political and financial purposes they decide to fake the landing rather than cancel the mission.

Minutes before launch, the bewildered crew of Col. Brubaker (James Brolin), Lt. Col. Willis (Sam Waterston), and Cmdr. Walker (O. J. Simpson) are removed from the capsule and flown to an old abandoned United States Army Air Corps base deep within the desert. The televised launch proceeds on schedule, but the public is unaware that the spacecraft (Capricorn One) does not have a crew.

At the remote base, the astronauts are informed they will fake the television footage from Mars and it is their patriotic duty to participate. Initially they refuse, but authorities imply their careers and the lives of their families are at stake if they do not cooperate.

The astronauts remain in captivity for a period of several months and are filmed landing on Mars within a studio located at the base. The conspiracy is known to only a select few NASA officials, until alert technician Elliot Whittier (Robert Walden) stumbles across a bizarre technical anomaly i.e. television transmissions from Mars made by the crew are being received by ground control before the spacecraft telemetry arrives. He is confused by the anomaly and wishes to investigate further, but is told not to worry about it by his employer. Even so, Whittier feels sufficiently uneasy to share his concerns with journalist friend Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould) at a local bar, but before Whittier can fully set out his concerns, he mysteriously disappears.

The film ends with Caulfield bringing Brubaker to the astronauts’ memorial service, exposing the conspiracy in dramatic fashion in front of dozens of witnesses and live national television.

The Killing Fields

  • Directors:
  • Producers: David Puttnam
  • Writers: Bruce Robinson
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Sam Waterston, John Malkovich, Haing S Ngor, Julian Sands

The film opens in May 1973 in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The Cambodian national army is fighting a civil war with the communist Khmer Rouge (KR), a result of the Vietnam War overspilling that country’s borders. Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist and interpreter for New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, awaits the arrival of Schanberg at the Phnom Penh airport when he leaves suddenly. Schanberg arrives after his flight is delayed for three hours and, irritated that Pran is not at the airport, takes a cab to his hotel. Pran meets Schanberg later and tells him that an incident has occurred in a town, Neak Leung; allegedly, an American B-52 has bombed the town by mistake.

Schanberg and Pran try to find transport to the site. Pran is able to sneak himself and Sydney onto a police boat that takes them to Neak Leung. When they arrive, they find that the town has indeed been bombed and hundreds have been killed, with many more wounded, including women and children. Schanberg and Pran are arrested when they try to photograph the execution of two KR operatives by Cambodian army officers. They are eventually released and Schanberg is furious when the international press corps arrives with the US Army to report a “sanitised” version of the story.

In the confusion, Pran escapes with four other prisoners and they begin a long trek through the jungle with Phat’s young son. The group later splits and three of them head in a different direction; Pran continues following the map with one of them. However, Pran’s companion steps on a hidden land mine while holding the child. Though Pran pleads with the man to give him the child, the mine goes off, killing them both. Pran mourns for a time and continues on. One day he crests a mountain and sees a Red Cross camp near the border of Thailand. The scene shifts to Schanberg calling Pran’s family with the news that Pran is alive and safe. Soon after, Schanberg travels to the Red Cross camp and is reunited with Pran. He asks Pran “Do you forgive me?” Pran answers, with a smile, “Nothing to forgive, Sydney, nothing to forgive.” The two embrace. The scene is set to the song “Imagine” by John Lennon.