Before Watching the Movie:
Once again, I know very little about this film. I hadn’t heard of it before it was suggested to me by the computer. Unlike most other movies I found this way, I wasn’t just looking for blog fodder. I had this queued for rental last year, when I ran out of money and had to shelve my rental service until now.
I don’t know why it caught my attention among other space movies. Probably it was the poster image which is reproduced here. I read the blurb and ordered it. Simple.
A Mars mission, a hoax conspiracy, it all sounds interesting to me, but doesn’t allow much to write about beforehand.
After watching the movie:
Facing national dissatisfaction with the costs of the space program, NASA is forced to fake a Mars mission rather than admit to a design flaw that would have killed their astronauts. The crew goes along with the hoax, but soon the narrative changes from a successful mission to martyrs for the cause, and only one investigative reporter can see the holes in their story.
I was a little disappointed in the format of this story. I was expecting more of a focus on the hoax itself, but the “mission” was over less than halfway through, whereupon it became a survival drama. The focus was not on the desperate men who concocted the scheme, but on the desperate men trying to get out of it. This is not Watergate In Space.
It’s very clear this story was inspired by the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory, so much so that the Capricorn space modules look exactly the same as the Apollo crafts. I was surprised to learn that the theory predates the actual landings, and the seminal book on the subject was published only a few years after Apollo was canceled. This was a few years before this movie came out, and was almost certainly an inspiration. I recognize this is something of a digression, but the moon landing controversy is a very sensitive topic for me.
While it didn’t go quite the way I expected, this film was definitely satisfying. It may not be the If I Did It of space travel, but a completely worthwhile thriller. The internal conflict of the astronauts is the focus until they need the reporter’s rescue, making for an insightful, exciting, if not terribly memorable film.
Watch this movie: as a coverup from the outside in.
Don’t watch this movie: for a manual on faking spaceflight. Have I said this enough?