'Operation Avalanche': Faking The Moon Landing Is An Absolute Blast [Sundance Review]

People don't seem to be all that impressed with found footage movies anymore, especially in the horror genre. But director Matt Johnson has done something clever with the narrative style in his Sundance selected comedic conspiracy theory thriller Operation Avalanche.

We all know that the United States was the first country to step foot on the moon after Russia beat us to space with Sputnik. But do we really know that for sure? Plenty of conspiracy theories claim that the moon landing was faked, and Operation Avalanche shows us how it was done in a story that might be the most original movies about the space race you'll ever see. Find out more in or Operation Avalanche review below!

Director Matt Johnson plays a CIA agent, not-so-coincidentally named Matt Johnson, working in the AV department for the government agency. Desperate for something more, he uses his video expertise to pitch an idea to help find a Russian mole that the CIA believes is working at NASA in an effort to keep the Soviet Union ahead in the race to the moon. Johnson wants to take his four person crew into NASA, posing as a documentary film crew, in an effort to try to find the mole.

But the mole hunt turns into something else entirely when they learn that NASA doesn't have the ability to land on the moon. Desperate to complete a significant mission, Johnson proposes that the CIA fake the moon landing in a way that even most of the people at NASA won't know that we didn't land on the moon. And that's where the film really takes off.

Feeding into various wild conspiracy theories about how the moon landing was fake, if the movie wasn't a completely fabricated narrative feature, it would make for a pretty compelling case against the CIA deceiving the American people. Johnson even incorporates Stanley Kubrick into the proceedings. We won't spoil how, but it makes for an awesome sequence.

Operation Avalanche

You might expect a movie like this to merely be about secrets and suspense, and while that's certainly there, this is pure entertainment as well. Johnson is a bit of a bumbling, overly enthusiastic film nerd who just wants to put his talent to real use, and his personality delivers some outstanding comedy, which also makes the mystery and tension that much more hard-hitting when they show up to make things serious.

Beyond the quality of the movie itself, how it was made is even more impressive. Johnson and his crew actually tricked NASA into they were also a documentary crew so they could get some interviews with real NASA personnel and use them in the confines of the narrative. In addition, the recreation of moon walking footage with practical effects and an impressive, climactic chase sequence are stellar achievements in indie filmmaking. I'd watch a documentary about how they made this film in a heartbeat.

The only downside to Operation Avalanche is that despite the style and narrative opportunities the found footage approach to the story allows the filmmakers to create, there are more than a few moments when it feels forced and out of place. It might have been better served to shoot the movie as a traditional narrative in the vein of the Coen Brothers. That wouldn't have been easy, and it probably would have been more expensive, but it would have helped with some of the pacing issues.

In the end, Operation Avalanche is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling dive into fake American history. Matt Johnson is a truly gifted filmmaker, and I'm extremely interested in seeing what a director like him can do when he's give a much bigger budget. Lionsgate will be distributing Operation Avalanche but it doesn't have a release date yet, so stay tuned.