Operation Avalanche (2016)

Operation Avalanche
Director: Matt Johnson
Writer: Matt Johnson, Josh Boles
Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles, Krista Madison, Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Tom Bolton
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2016

In 1967, the CIA suspects that there is a Russian mole at NASA, sabotaging the Apollo programn and keeping USAmerican astronauts out of space. So they send two operatives to NASA, undercover, to try and hunt down the mole. Matt Johnson (Matt Johnson) and Owen Williams (Owen Williams), two agents in the A/V department of the CIA, get the task: pretending to shoot a documentary about NASA, they start the hunt. But what they discover may be way bigger than just a mole.

Operation Avalanche is the documentary all the moon conspiracy theorist wish was real. It’s a great idea and starts off well enough, but halfway through it switches tone a little and that switch didn’t work that well for me.

We’ve probably all heard the theories: there never was a man on the moon. All the film footage we have is fake material (filmed in a studio by Stanley Kubrick), shot to make sure that the USA wins the space race, an important factor in the Cold War. Etc etc etc. With Operation Avalanche Matt Johnson provides the mockumentary to prove those theories and the first half is simply funny as fuck. 

Especially when you know how they got some of the footage. We were lucky enough to attend a screening with Matt Johnson in attendance who told us a bit about the shoot (he himself is also a really funny guy, making the Q&A doubly entertaining). For example, they shot actual footage at NASA without their knowledge by pretending to shoot a documentary for a student film project (mockumentaryception) and they were really worried about how to make everything look like it was still shot in the 60s. But as they arrived there, they realized that everything still absolutely looks like 50 years ago. There was never any remodelling done or anything. Which is all kinds of amazing.

So the beginning is great and just very, very funny. But then the film takes a turn in the second half, becomes more serious and pretty much a spy thriller with high stakes and with that turn, it did lose my interest a little. There were also some lengths in that second half. Plus, the longer the film went on, the weirder it became that there are practically no women in it at all. Was there a sudden lack of women in the world that I missed somehow? (In fact, the women we do get to see work at NASA and are part of the actual documentary footage, putting movie reality to shame even more.)

But there is definitely enough to the film, despite the weaker second half, that makes it worth watching and laughing about everything. Or maybe to start questioning everything…

Summarizing: it’s fun for the most part.

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