See it. 7/10
“Instead of video, why don’t we Forrest Gump you into these photos? “
A conspiracy film about faking the moon landing that’s fused with hidden camera style footage and clips taken whilst secretly infiltrating the NASA; how can you not be interested in that?
Operation Avalanche is the second film by writer/director Matthew Johnson who seems to continue with strength after our recent praise for his debut The Dirties. And it seems that with higher ambitions that required a larger budget, the young filmmaker appears to be very comfortable with the increased responsibility. Operation Avalanche is a remarkable feat of independent cinema.
One of my favorite attractions about the work of Matthew Johnson, besides the great concepts that he tackles, is the style of filmmaking that he employs. He makes marvelous efforts in Operation Avalanche to incorporate footage from hidden camera style shots or from real interviews in which the people aren’t aware of his ulterior motive and are then utilized as part of the story. Scenes that came from sneaking into NASA by posing as young filmmakers (which fits the premise of the film perfectly) to making their way on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey were efforts that need to be commended. Especially because of the footage they managed to capture but also in terms of how well it works into the narrative. To an extent, it’s akin to the style used in Borat, but it’s masterfully utilized by Matthew Johnson who’s employed it with all of his works so far (The Dirties and Nirvanna The Band The Show).
I also have to applaud the team that Matthew Johnson assembles to help create his faithful adaption and that allows these scenes to work. I want to particularly highlight the Stanley Kubrick sequence, through not only the process of getting the raw footage to begin with (which has an interesting story in itself for those wanting to read more about it later), but also for the 5 months of visual effect work to make the finished product look so believable for a sequence that only ran for 15-seconds in the whole film. I’m not going to spoil what details of the scene required such a large effort but it’s incredible to see the attention to detail and also passion by these young filmmakers.
This was echoed in all the work put into making Operation Avalanche appear as a 1967 found-footage film, from the style of cameras used to reflect the 60’s grade of, to the costumes and set designs used. Everything had to appear like it was from the 1960’s in order to achieve an authentic look, which the film did so successfully. The production quality from Operation Avalanche matched Matthew Johnson’s vision for the film and I truly can’t wait to see what he does next with what I’m hoping will be an even higher budget.
There’s even an extended car chase sequence filmed from inside one of the vehicles and executed all in one take, which would have taken enormous times of preparation but also bravery to do so. In an interview with SlashFilm, Matthew Johnson spoke of the freedom and ability of independent cinema to do stunts with the main actors of the story. If it were a Hollywood mainstream blockbuster, more than likely stunt people would have been employed but also would have required larger funds to complete more takes in case the first take didn’t work. It was risky, but it paid off.
I have a few issues with certain sections of pacing, which are fairly minor in contrast to the positives I’ve mentioned, but overall Operation Avalanche has a lot going for it. It’s one of the better examples of independent and guerrilla style filmmaking for the modern age and its premise is exciting enough to warrant you giving it a watch. I had a blast watching this film from both a narrative direction and a technical standpoint, and I’d thoroughly recommend you give this film a view. Also check out The Dirties and Matthew Johnson’s TV show Nirvanna The Band The Show, which has also become one of my favorite comedies in recent years. See it.
Matthew Johnson’s Interview With SlashFilm