Operation Avalanche

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There are a lot of things I’m iffy on in life. UFOs, Bigfoot, Nessie; I’d like to believe they all exist and I can say with a modicum of certainty that I’ve seen one of those three with my own eyes. While we have shaky evidence that would suggest they are not completely farcical, outside of some blurry pictures always taken with the worst camera the photographer owns, they remain largely mythical.

In the interest of keeping this light, I’ll spare you my opinions on conspiracy theories. People have conflicting ideas about certain things. Are Elvis and Tupac still alive and kickin’ it somewhere in Cuba together? What’s up with Area 51? What are they even doing out there?  I’m pretty sure Paul McCartney is still alive since I’ve seen him in concert twice… or have I? And what really happened to the little duckies in the book President Bush was reading on that fateful day?

One thing I’ve never questioned is the moon landing. I don’t know why, but I’ve just always taken it at face value because so many people are on board. I guess my reasoning is flawed there. A great way to get bamboozled is to just believe something because someone else does.

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When JFK promised America that we would get to the moon first, it boosted morale immeasurably. It gave people something to hope for; something to be excited about. It also skyrocketed — no pun intended — his popularity. Everybody loves a guy who makes big promises and follows through. JFK was no slouch, so folks were pretty confident that if he said we were goin’ to the moon, by god, we were goin’ to the moon. Bang zoom.

In Operation Avalanche, CIA agents Matt Johnson (Johnson) and Owen Williams (Williams) are sent undercover to NASA when there is hear tell of a mole. In order to capture their findings on film without facing interrogation, they’re calling themselves documentarians. Their mission: expose the informant and don’t get caught.

Johnson comes across as a bit of a buffoon at first — and he totally is one — but when it comes to the task at hand, he’s got his eyes on the prize. He’s wily and quite reckless and operates mostly under the idea that it is easier to apologize than to ask for permission.

His uptight counterpart, Williams, is the Frye to his Bueller. He is frequently a nervous wreck and always skeptical. When the two learn that Russia may be winning in the race to get to the moon, Johnson’s radical idea to fake a moon landing on television elicits a skittish response from Williams. Johnson is essentially left with his CIA-issued babysitter, Josh Boles (Boles), to carry out what is regarded by some as the greatest ruse of all time.

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In their search for the perfect terrain to replicate the moon on film, Johnson and Boles track down Stanley Kubrick who also happens to be making a movie about space. Vital information is gained and the project soldiers on.

Lost in his own maddened state and obsessed with seeing his objective to completion, Johnson chooses to ignore the ominous — and not so ominous — red flags popping up all around him. He’s in the eye of the maelstrom and inadvertently taking everyone down with him.

Operation Avalanche masquerades as a light-hearted romp about a guy who wants to fool the whole world and then it leaves us completely breathless by end credits. Matt Johnson is a delight to watch; often a cartoon version of himself. Outstanding timing and a knack for making everybody a little uneasy, Johnson makes the most of every moment on-screen. Williams, Boles, and a generous smattering of largely unknown actors — plus some very neat camera work, some of which is reminiscent of Blair Witch handheld action — give this film a very real feel. That’s always important, but especially so for a faux documentary.

I’ve always thought my mom was a little funny for the fact that she doesn’t believe that we landed on the moon. She argues that if we didn’t have microwave ovens, how did we go to the moon? I don’t have the heart to tell her that we totally had microwaves before the moon landing. Don’t tell her. That said, maybe she’s onto something. Maybe Elvis and Tupac are on the moon right now.  After all, it’s not a lie if you believe it.

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