REVIEW: Operation Avalanche
Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Broles
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…impresses with its humour, depth and numerous salutes to Kubrick.
In this found footage black comedy from Canadian filmmaker, Matt Johnson (The Dirties), the buzzword “Fake News” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s the ‘60s, and Russia and America are neck and neck in the space race. All it would take to tip the balance is for one country to land on the moon before the other. When the CIA’s “A/V programme” goes undercover to flush out a Soviet mole in NASA, they inadvertently discover that America isn’t even close to competing with Russia. The A/V Programme’s leader, Matt Johnson (Johnson), spies an opportunity and offers their services to create compelling evidence that America has landed on the moon first.
That the moon landings really have been faked is a conspiracy theory that goes beyond the age of newsgroups and the internet. Johnson is acutely aware of this, and he litters the screenplay (co-written by his co-star, Josh Broles) with allusions to various theories. There’s even a CGI Stanley Kubrick (take that, Rogue One!) on hand to unwittingly give advice on Front Screen Projection, a technique that Matt swipes from a set visit to 2001: A Space Odyssey. As Matt’s plan comes to fruition, the film’s comedy is stripped away to reveal a taut thriller as the filmmakers begin to fear that they’re being watched.
The attention to detail in Johnson’s film is extraordinary, with Operation Avalanche truly feeling like it’s been shot on 16mm. Found footage isn’t something readily equated to that time period, and Johnson manages to steer the film round any potential anachronisms. Despite the film’s later turn into darker territory, there’s still an element of mischievousness about the whole affair as Matt and his team are cleverly superimposed into established history. And whilst the ending doesn’t really stick, Operation Avalanche impresses with its humour, depth and numerous salutes to Kubrick.