Operation Avalanche Movie Review
The handheld found footage sub genre blasted onto the scene with 1999’s BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. A film I still highly respect to this day for its daring new technique and clever marketing. Since then we have had an onslaught of horrendous attempts that are too numerous to name. However, a few have cracked the code by breathing fresh life with slightly different takes – 2008’s CLOVERFIELD, 2009’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, 2012’s CHRONICLE, and 2015’s THE VISIT. OPERATION AVALANCHE avoids the horror route and tries to find some of that respectable success through the documentary, found footage technique with one of the greatest conspiracy theories in history by revealing what really happened in achieving Apollo 11’s moon landing and subsequent small step for man and giant leap for mankind.
Taking place in 1967, Four young undercover CIA agents were sent to NASA posing as a documentary film crew. Their mission is to find a Russian mole. However, once they discover it will be years before the U.S. will be able to land on the moon, they come up with a top secret plan to fake the moon landing.
OPERATION AVALANCHE is a suspense, conspiracy thriller with a unique topic. The idea is worth exploring and the film even adds a hint at the famously rumored conspiracy of Stanley Kubrick’s unknowing involvement. Unfortunately, beyond small glimpses of how they would even pull it off, the thrills are lacking. None of the characters are particularly interesting nor is most of the action. But OPERATION AVALANCHE is surprisingly funny. The energy from the lead agent and almost silly way they come up with their ideas (Neil Armstrong’s famous line) has a quirky way of inducing a grin. The easy-going approach to such an insane lie to an important part of American history gives the film a sense of odd charm. Adversely, when things get dangerous, dark, and dramatic, OPERATION AVALANCHE begins to fall apart.
The major problem is once you begin to ask questions or pull at the thread, you realize there are far too many things that don’t add up. Wouldn’t many people within NASA have to be aware of the CIA’s fabrication, specifically the astronauts involved? If so, why are these young agents such a threat and no one else? Like all found footage films, there always needs to be a reason why someone is holding the camera. Yes, they are keeping a documentary of what they are doing, but the camera man barely utters a word, never turns off the camera, and finds unique shots during unnecessary dangerous situations, while the leader of the group never turns off his mic.
Newcomer Matt Johnson performs triple duty by acting, writing (along with Josh Boles), and directing OPERATION AVALANCHE. Clearly this is somewhat of a passion project for Johnson and his energy shines through. Ultimately, I think the film would have been better served sticking to the comedy losing the found footage gimmick. While the OPERATION AVALANCHE is considerably flawed, I think it has elements of fun creativity that are worth noting and should give this young filmmaker more opportunities to prove himself.