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Operation Avalanche - Movie Review

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Operation Avalanche - Movie Review

4 stars

When the results are this hilarious, who needs sophistication?  Filmmaker Matt Johnson (The Dirties) and co-conspirator Owen Williams return to playing themselves in their second feature, Operation Avalanche.  It is a comedy thriller that walks and talks like a documentary as NASA and the CIA, circa 1968, get flipped on their heads.  Tossing in one conspiracy theory after another, the film is both goofy and politically charged.  It is also irreverent as hell, turning its own brand of comedy into paranoia as the tension mounts and, eventually, consumes the picture.

One should never work for the CIA.  Ever.  That's the bottom line.

Based on a script by Johnson and Josh Boles, Operation Avalanche is “the assignment of a lifetime” for two Ivy League cinema-loving nerds.  Part of a mass recruitment program, these two nerds think they have struck gold.  Matt and Owen are employed by the CIA to see if temperamental filmmaker Stanley Kubrick is, in fact, secretly working for the communists.  The agency was less than impressed with Dr. Strangelove it seems.  The operation’s code name is Deep Red and that’s only the dynamic duo’s first assignment.

When a wiretap discovery suggests the United States just might lose the space race, these two geeks find themselves on the front line of the action, infiltrating Kubrick’s sets and filming their own moon-landing scenes in order to fake-out America.  Plotting out a world-wide con is harder than it seems.  Matt; however, masterminds the whole operation.  He’s a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream, confirming everything they believe to be true about the moon landing.

Thing is, Matt’s team is being followed by other unknown agents.  Are they soviet spies?  Are they from the CIA?  The farther their plan to con America into believing that we can land AND RETURN a man on the moon develops, the more the comedic situations in Operation Avalanche slips the noose over its own head.  When they actually pull off some pretty astounding footage, no one is laughing.  We are soon consumed by the paranoia at the film’s heart.  Ultimately, that’s all there is.  Bodies start piling up and no place is safe.  It seems the CIA – hellbent on carrying out Matt and Owen’s insane plan to fake the moon landing – is working overtime to cover up the conspiracy.

And no one is safe.

In this mockumentary, satire reigns supreme and we are the benefactors.  The two men at the center of the picture are government tools for sure.  Hilariously, they don’t recognize it and they mistake their own youthful ambition for legitimate skills.  The results are side-splittingly funny.  Considering that we get looks at a young Kubrick interacting with our stars, much of the film is pretty damn amazing, too.  Things get serious, though, and – complete with an authentic backwards steering car chase upon some gravel roads – the movie sobers up rather intensely.

By design, the movie is peppered with out of focus shots, scratches on the film, and tons of not-so-pleasant looking scenes shot haphazardly as the events unfold.  As much as the documentary crew announces they want everything to look crisp and in focus, it is not. Truthfully, the film operates like a found footage film – except with bits of comedy thrown in instead of horror - as they stumble their way through this mess.  It should be noted, though, that the screaming found in all those found footage movies comes later.

Behind the scenes, the team bumbles its way into locked offices and trounces upon one conspiracy theory after another.  Secret phone calls are recorded and a set of mission orders are forged.  And it is all for the good of the nation.  Fake the moon landing?  No problem.  What director do we know that can assist us?  The plot writes itself.

Maybe it’s the idea of setting this mockumentary in 1968 that makes it feel so fresh.  Perhaps it’s the behind-the-scenes glimpses at the filming of 2001.  Maybe it’s the batshit crazy content of actually detailing how a conspiracy theory is an actual event or perhaps its the hilarity of the team using front screen projection to pull off their scheme.  Regardless, people actually believe this faking of the moon landing to be real and this film OF FICTION will probably give them more fuel to rage on.   No matter how you believe, the movie comes HIGHLY recommended. 

Operation Avalanche makes a damn good time out of getting things so completely wrong.

Operation Avalanche - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for language including a brief sexual reference.
94 mins
: Matt Johnson
Josh Boles, Matt Johnson
 Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles
: Thriller
Operation Avalanche
Memorable Movie Quote: "We can't land on the moon. We aren't touching down for five years."
Theatrical Distributor: 
Lionsgate Premiere
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 16, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: In 1967, during the height of the Cold War, two young CIA agents (Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) go undercover at NASA to investigate a possible Russian mole. In disguise as documentary filmmakers, they tap phones and break into offices while purporting to learn more about the Apollo project. But when they end up uncovering a shocking NASA secret — and a major government cover-up — they decide to embark on a new mission that may put their own lives at risk.

No details available.


Operation Avalanche - Movie Review

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