Operation Avalanche is a found footage film alleging that the NASA moon landing was faked by two bumbling but amusing CIA agents posing as a documentary crew inside NASA to root out a suspected Russian mole.
After bugging NASA’s phones, they accidentally discover that NASA is four years behind schedule and that NASA is incapable of actually landing on the moon in time to realize President Kennedy’s vision of accomplishing it before the end of the 60s, and certainly not before the Russians get there.
Inspired by Stanley Kubrick — who they determine is not a Russian spy — they film the moon landing using his camera techniques in order to fool even NASA’s mission control (fortunately, the CIA is able to vet the astronauts and pick the ones who are complicit in staying mum about the hoax). The film obviously requires a suspension of disbelief, but it is willingly granted because it’s so fun. Clocking at only 93 minutes, the movie is a streamlined edit that doesn’t drag.
Many of the actors play themselves, artistically transporting themselves back to the 1960s to personally fake the moon landing. Matt Johnson and Owen Williams are in real life doing the same thing: infiltrating actual NASA locations with creatively deceptive intentions.
Despite the film’s charmingly impressive production value, it’s a low-budget testament to Johnson’s ambition in moviemaking. He is definitely an auteur to pay attention to as his career develops, and this film is an admirable early project in a hopefully long filmography.
Johnson’s recurring faux-documentary film style has generated mixed reviews, but Operation Avalanche is an entertaining throwback to America’s existential space race rivalry with the Soviet Union. It’s certainly a creative, fresh take on the found-footage genre, and it evolves into a CIA thriller of sorts. Filmed in a 60s style, the film takes a little getting used to when the theatre house lights darken, but the costuming, locations, and acting all are joined into a cohesive aesthetic.
Contemptor grade: 9/10