James Cole Clay // Film Critic
Found footage films have been a sub-genre that has allowed filmmakers to play with the medium in ways that are playful, scary and work on a smaller budget. This has ushered in several franchises (mostly horror) from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to the grandaddy of them all THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.
But with director and co-screenwriter Matt Johnson and Josh Brole’s film OPERATION AVALANCHE, you can only coast on the novelty of kooky camera tricks and a fun premise for so long.
Shot in cinéma vérité – or in this case, a fake documentary fashion – the film focuses on the 1967 space race with the Soviet Union to get to the moon first. A quintet of scientists led by Johnson (THE DIRTIES), who poses as the director of the crew, get permission from NASA to discover a mole in the ranks at the world famous space station. However, what they decided to do is fake the moon landing.
The conspiracy theory has been rumored for many years, but making a film suggesting this is fact is borderline unethical. While the novel premise works in theory and employs inventive use of the found footage premise, the tension that swells when the crew realize they could be hunted by the CIA is completely undercut by shoddy direction in terms of the tone management. The guys on camera are clearly giddy to be making a film that does indeed look straight up taken from a undiscovered film from the 1960s.
OPERATION AVALANCHE has all the goods in place to craft a haunting movie about evil government agents, but frankly, it just becomes dull with a second act that’s padded with mindless exposition.
One of the more exciting sequences feature the crew tracking down the legend Stanley Kubrick while he’s shooting 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, as they are looking to use his movie magic for their own dubious project.
I’d heard phenomenal things about the film from reputable sources, and amid all the boredom I kept waiting for a grand pay-off, but all I got was a hankering to revisit Kubrick’s space masterpiece.
OPERATION AVALANCHE opens in limited release today.