1967: the height of the Cold War. The CIA suspects there is a Russian mole inside of NASA, sabotaging the Apollo program. They send two young agents on a mission to go undercover, posing as documentary filmmakers to capture NASA's race to the moon. The real mission - use their access and technology to hunt down the leak. But what they discover is far more shocking than soviet spies - Their government may be hiding a secret about Apollo that could define the decade, and the White House will stop at nothing to silence anyone who learns it.
This film starts as a comedy and ends as a thriller, a neat trick if you can pull it off, and these filmmakers pull it off with style! This might just be the most ambitious and audacious low-budget film I've ever seen.
At the VIFF showing where I saw it, someone in the audience at the Q & A asked the director if he was a fan of the 1977 conspiracy thriller Capricorn One. Matt Johnson answered that he was, although he didn't find it a terribly plausible thriller. He did admire it for the aerial chase scenes.
I'm in complete agreement with him. The helicopter/biplane chase scene is one of the best chase scenes of any kind ever filmed, IMHO. But, overall, the story is pretty hard to swallow.
What Operation Avalanche shares with that film are some wonderful plot reversals and a thrilling escalation of the stakes as the movie develops. The scheme at its heart is considerably more plausible than the one in the Peter Hyams film. Plus, the dialogue in Avalanche is way better.
The only thing about Operation Avalanche that I found hard to accept was *why* some of the scenes were being filmed and who was filming them (it's a "found footage" movie) but the story was so well structured that I easily forgave that hiccup. There were also a few anachronistic dialogue slips that gave away that the film was written by a millennial (for example, at one point, a character says "And I'm like. . . " instead of "And then I said. . . ", an idiom that didn't appear until about 15 years ago) but that, I suppose, is one of the hazards of improvised dialogue. Visually, the film is very convincing looking.
The director's stories of how he pulled off filming it right under NASA's nose is the icing on the cake. Hopefully, some of those behind-the-scene stories will find their way onto this movie's eventual release on BluRay or DVD.
What a gem.
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