REVIEW — “Operation Avalanche”
Operation Avalanche is directed by Matt Johnson and written by Josh Boles and Matt Johnson. It stars Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles, Jared Raab and Andrew Appelle. It tells the story of four undercover CIA agents who were sent to NASA posing as a documentary film crew who then shoot footage of a fake moon landing after learning that NASA was losing the space race to the Russians. Now you’ve more than likely never heard of this but you really should have. Operation Avalanche is a creative, inspiring, innovative project that will floor you with its unique story structure, interesting narrative, and raw passion. This is criminally under-seen and one of the best of the year. It will hook you with its charming cast and keep you on the edge of your seat with its engrossing story.
Matt Johnson is directing here and he absolutely kills it. This is his second time directing and he is definitely a creator to watched. His directorial debut, The Dirties, is one of my personal favorites so needless to say I was beyond excited for this and thankfully, he knocks it out of the park. Johnson directs the hell out of this, making an entertaining and enthralling experience. Operation Avalanche is one of the most thrilling flicks of the year and it’s by far the best found footage project of the year, I’m looking at you Blair Witch. The narrative is crafted so uniquely and while this won’t fool anyone into believing this is a real documentary, it builds a world that strangely works. In terms of found footage, this ranks among the best. I forgot this was a found footage movie and I would be hesitant to call it that, as it is so meta and so well executed it falls into a genre of its own. Matt Johnson is certainly one of my favorite working directors and I will look forward to whatever he decides to do next.
Josh Boles and Matt Johnson penned the script and not to repeat myself but it’s incredibly unique and creative. It’s clear Boles and Johnson did a lot of research to make this as accurate and authentic as it could be. Their goal was not to fool the audience into thinking this actually happened, but believing in the world of the story that it could have. This is by no means a conspiracy theory thriller like JFK or Snowden. It uses the conspiracy to tell a story of friendship and ambition. I don’t know if it’s a testament to the acting or the script but the characters are very realistic and likable and there is a lot of great dialogue-driven scenes. The closing line is as great as a closing line could be and the ending is bone chilling. This has a great structure as it starts off very small and somewhat easy going but with one scene the characters realize what their little NASA assignment means on a world scale and it turns up the tension and you’re off. In a year with of great scripts, this ranks as my favorite.
Now in terms of acting the whole cast does a great job. Matt Johnson is a god damn powerhouse on screen and it scares me how talented he is. While I enjoyed his performance in The Dirties more he still does a great job as the leading man. Owen Williams also kills it, delivering a very realistic performance, perfectly portraying the confusion and confliction of his character. Everyone else is great but Owen and Matt shine brightly. Similar to The Dirties, almost all the characters share the names of their respective actors and you can almost see them as the same characters in both films and Johnson really has done something impressive, making two movies so close in quality and narrative that are both so fantastic in such a short period of time. Operation Avalanche really shows Johnson and his whole team as a talent to watch. Everything is well executed and this is ripe with passion and raw energy. In a year of bland, studio produced blockbusters it’s refreshing to see something that is just happy to exist.
On a technical level, Operation Avalanche is impressive. This was a very low budget production and I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell. Johnson has clearly taken every advantage and shortcut he could have to make this, even finding a loophole allowing him to actually film in NASA headquarters without their knowledge. All these risks make this something special and inspiring. There is such an authenticity to this project and Johnson has really put his heart and sole and this. The CGI work on Stanley Kubrick is very well done and basically, all the VFX is great for such a small budget. For something found footage, this is very innovative and due to the platform they used, aspects that would usually be large flaws for another project are some of the best aspects of Operation Avalanche. It’s a marvel of low-budget cinema and a must watch for any aspiring filmmakers.
The entirety of this review has been me gushing about how much I loved this. I hope Matt Johnson never stops making content. Operation Avalanche is an inspiring, ambitious, and thrilling movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you with a smile. 5/5