Stars: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Krista Madison, Tom Bolton, Sharon Belle, Josh Boles, Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Joe Thomas | Written by Matt Johnson, Josh Boles | Directed by Matt Johnson
1967: the height of the Cold War. The CIA suspects there is a Russian mole inside of NASA, sabotaging the Apollo program. They send two young agents on a mission to go undercover, posing as documentary filmmakers, there to capture NASA’s race to the moon. The real mission – use their access and technology to hunt down the leak. But what they discover is far more shocking than soviet spies… Their government may be hiding a secret about Apollo that could define the decade, and the White House will stop at nothing to silence anyone who learns it.
Comspiracy theories. There’s a million of them. The biggest? That man never landed on the moon in 1969 and instead the whole Apollo 11 mission was an elaborate hoax. It’s a theory that inspired Peter Hyam’s 1977 thriller Capricorn One and it’s one that is at the heart of Operation Avalanche. The film even touches on the idea that filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was the man behind the moon landing footage – visiting Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey!
Presented as footage from the CIA’s case files, Operation Avalanche is a found-footage movie by any other name. Blurring the line between reality and found-footage is usually what let’s these types of films down but Matt Johnson and co. have the advantage that this 60s set film can look as scratchy, shaky and ill put together as the newsreel footage we’ve seen for decades – it also means Johnson can utilise old footage from the time to splice into his film to give the whole thing some real authenticity. It also helps that the film visits and references key people of the time (the Kubrick soundstage footage is amazing).
Of course just telling the story of how the moon landings COULD have been faked isn’t enough for this group of filmmakers, instead the film has conspiracy theories of its own as the crew making the moon landing footage are followed and tracked by shady characters who may or may not be moles for either Russia or the CIA – which would also mean the film crew have been double-crossed by their own agency. It’s at this point that Operation Avalanche breaks down a little, the film and the cast become a little too manic, falling into the same overwrought story trap that many a found-footage film suffers from.
One of the better examples of the genre, even pleasing a found-footage skeptic like myself, Operation Avalanche is out now on DVD and VOD from Lionsgate.