Taking place in 1967 at the height of the Cold War, Matthew Johnson's Operation Avalanche tells the story of Matt and Owen, two ambitious, young CIA agents who have some specialization that relates to production and video services. The tension surrounding the cold war has bled into all phases of life, with NASA's space program being the new focal point of this stand off between the United States and the Soviet Union, with each nation intent on being first to the moon. Going undercover at NASA to investigate a possible Russian mole, Matt and Owen soon find their tireless ambitions getting the best of them when Matt proposes an elaborate plan to stage the whole moon landing, an ambitious proposal that is agreed upon by their superiors in the government, which unfortunately and inevitably puts both of their lives in danger. Matt Johnson is one of the true auteurs of indie, contemporary cinema due his ability to create unique stories that defy typical genre classification. Much like his previous film The Dirties, Operation Avalanche is another such film that beautifully lulls the viewer to sleep with its charismatic charm, characters, and creativity, only to reveal a much darker, thought-provoking experience in the end. With its narrative centered around the conspiracy theory that the US government staged the moon landing, Operation Avalanche is material perfect for Matt Johnson's strengths, being a filmmaker whose love and passion for cinema is felt throughout every frame. Much of Operation Avalanche pulsates with energy and optimism, mirroring the spirited ambition of Matt who simply wants to prove himself to his superiors, tapping into the creative mindset of filmmaking to stage this elaborate hoax. For much of the film one could argue that Operation Avalanche is about the magic of filmmaking and creativity itself, with Matt and Owen solving the government's problem through ingenuity and creativity, regardless of the ethical questions raised by this type of cover up they are enabling. Of course this type of energy and optimism begins to fade when Matt begins to finely see beyond his own ambition, realizing the cold, mechanical nature of government bureaucracy and it's penchant for determining what is best for the greater good. In this sense, Operation Avalanche becomes a story of the perils of ambition, with Matt and Owen's very lives being endangered due primarily to Matt's desire to prove his worth. Throughout Operation Avalanche there is an undercurrent of this unsettling reality, but the film's tone remains light and humorous, clinging onto Matt's own ambition blinding mindset. Towards the end of the film, Operation Avalanche is almost unrecognizable from its earlier tone, descending into a tenser experience, one that reflects the true seriousness of the situation in which these characters find themselves, one in which Matt himself is a liability to the great lie the government must now protect and conceal at all costs. Operation Avalanche's technical attributes are also impressive, especially when considering the budget restrictions, with the filmmakers effectively creating the look and feel of the late 60s, using various film stocks to give the film the same grainy look and feel, while also intercutting archival footage at times to only strengthens the authentic look and feel of this wild conspiracy theory inspired subject matter. Matt Johnson's Operation Avalanche is a film that touches on a wide array of emotions throughout its running time, being a film that defies traditional genre classification while delivering its tale about the perils of ambition.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.