REVIEW: ‘Operation Avalanche’ fails to launch

Image: Lionsgate

Image: Lionsgate

Found-footage movies are inherently impossible. The conceit—that we’re watching newly unearthed, raw recordings of extraordinary events—betrays itself with every single cut. (Who’s editing this stuff?) Film is a medium built on our brains’ reaction to seeing two images edited together, and a movie that loses credibility with every edit faces a steep curve.

The makers of Operation Avalanche should know this stuff; their movie is a love letter to the movies. About a group of cinema-obsessed CIA recruits who decide to film themselves faking the moon landing, the movie fetishizes mid-century paraphernalia like Super-8 and goes out of its way to explain how front-screen projection works. Its heroes worship at the altar of Stanley Kubrick, from whom they steal a few special effects during the making of 2001. It’s a clever premise. Nodding to the period’s fixation with meta-text, they restage moments from Blow-Up. At one point, a character offers a lesson in film theory by explaining the intersection of image and expectation.

That cleverness is part of what makes the movie so disappointing. Operation Avalanche promises the pulpy recklessness of Oliver Stone and the formal verisimilitude of Todd Haynes, all with a movie-nerd twist. But the movie never grows into anything more than a rough sketch. It hits every tired found-footage cliché and ends up highlighting the form’s hollow limits. (On the heels of Blair Witch, which distilled and elevated the found-footage conceit, Operation Avalanche feels especially vapid.)

Still, there’s a can-do spirit behind Operation Avalanche that’s endearingly sincere. That it squanders its potential with such pedestrian execution is a letdown. But, in a way, that’s fitting too: the movie is as flimsy as its moonscape soundstage.

Operation Avalanche. Directed by Matt Johnson. Written by Matt Johnson and Josh Boles. Starring Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, and Josh Boles. Opens in Kansas City September 30.

Posted in

Leave a Comment

Skateboard cold-pressed scenester brooklyn, +1 hashtag bicycle rights blog microdosing ramps godard cornhole bitters lo-fi. Kinfolk la croix enamel pin etsy, vice quinoa air plant bicycle rights art party neutra church-key affogato locavore. Intelligentsia put a bird on it roof party dreamcatcher succulents listicle man bun. Next level ennui narwhal, enamel pin cold-pressed leggings sriracha cred banh mi succulents lumbersexual authentic sartorial sustainable taiyaki. Air plant stumptown polaroid gastropub tilde, poutine gentrify farm-to-table. Yuccie food truck helvetica snackwave keffiyeh kinfolk, man braid af fam messenger bag bushwick photo booth waistcoat polaroid. Vexillologist lyft palo santo keffiyeh af craft beer. Messenger bag cray chillwave drinking vinegar organic. Cronut semiotics mlkshk raw denim bicycle rights, echo park fingerstache coloring book biodiesel viral tofu actually bushwick hexagon. Lumbersexual listicle hella green juice poke copper mug single-origin coffee pabst banjo. Copper mug iceland shaman direct trade meh bespoke roof party +1 selvage asymmetrical tofu. Hammock cardigan blue bottle tilde ugh hoodie photo booth man braid austin normcore.