Operation Avalanche

Out Now On-Demand

It's not a lie if you believe it.

Faux-doco conspiracy thriller, partly filmed at NASA after fooling the powers-that-be about the film's intentions. In the midst of the Cold War, two young CIA agents infiltrate NASA to find a mole, but find themselves at ground zero of one of the 20th Century's biggest lies. Forget spies - is there a cover-up about the moon landings? And what won't the White House do to keep it secret? 

"This is the story that has been cut together from the footage the Operation Avalanche team shot when they recently infiltrated NASA by saying they were shooting a documentary about the Apollo program in the 1960s. By slipping actors into real scenarios and crafting fiction from the results, director Matt Johnson offers possible new contexts to reframe our realities. This blending of fact and fiction is one that Johnson is becoming known for, and it's a unique and audacious approach." (Hot Docs Festival)


Directed by

Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Festival & Independent


Rating: M Violence and offensive language



Aaron Yap


Celluloid-sniffing cinephiles, conspiracy theorists and alternate-history enthusiasts alike should have a field day with Matt Johnson’s faux-documentary, a technically deft, but tonally flat blend of fact and fiction that posits a different backstory to the historic 1969 moon landing of Apollo 11. According to Operation Avalanche, this momentous occasion was entirely fabricated, a far-out, elaborate scheme cooked up by the CIA’s AV team, led by Johnson, in a bid to get ahead in the US-Soviet space race. NASA, we’re told, can fly to the moon, but can’t land anyone there. They’re also hoping to flush out a Russian mole lurking in their midst. Imagine Primer’s homespun ingenuity in service of a found footage Capricorn One remake, and you’re nearly there.

Better as a tribute to the lost art of analog filmmaking and practical effects than a paranoid espionage thriller, Operation Avalanche enthralls the viewer with its geeked-out know-how and period aesthetic. Credit to Johnson for making it all look as effortless as it does. The extra length he goes to expound the intricacies of frame rates and film-to-broadcast transfers, scout for land formations and rock types to emulate the moon’s surface, seamlessly integrate fictional characters into existing archival footage (Kubrick has an amusing cameo) -- there’s a level of detail on display that’s admirable in its obsessiveness and dedication. Yet for all its cunning wizardry, Operation Avalanche would have benefited from a stronger emotional core. Johnson isn’t able to bring more than restless bluster to his character. Operation Avalanche is supremely crafty, but one wishes it had a bigger soul to ground its arch machinations.

Hollywood Reporter


Avalanche will attract more attention for its sneaky ethic...and for its efforts at recreating a period-appropriate look.

Guardian (UK)


The ending doesn't quite land the gut punch it's hoping for, but this is more about fun than about exposing deep, nefarious truths. At least, I think it is.

Variety (USA)


Demonstrates that there's still plenty of room left within the found-footage format to craft fresh, high-concept projects, regardless of the fact that no one's falling for their alleged authenticity any longer.

Entertainment Weekly (USA)


A small step rather than a giant leap.

New York Times


This mischievous, winking sensibility lends lightness and bounce to a story that’s not without menace and even some pathos.

IndieWire (USA)


Even more remarkable, the shaky camerawork always maintains spatial orientation, so that viewers can follow each beat of the plot despite the shifting perspectives.

Los Angeles Times


It's as dizzying as it sounds, but more the fun-house version of disorienting.

NZ Herald (Russell Baillie)


An enjoyable exercise in creative low-budget, DIY special effects-enhanced film-making - one which finds fresh inspiration in the whole tired found-footage shtick.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)


With its Creedence Clearwater Revival-inspired soundtrack and clever use of different types of film stock and grades, there's a lot to like about this wildly inventive what if scenario.

Surprisingly funny

I enjoyed the film, although it had some very unusual aspects to it.

It was authentic with all the set - cars, clothes, etc being very 1960s and the film work looking like the technology came from that era. It also made the concept of a conspiracy look much more likely than I had ever thought before.

More suited to those who like indie films than those who generally prefer blockbuster Hollywood type films. Although anyone old enough to remember the moon landing will probably enjoy.




Did know what it wanted to be

Was upbeat until the end then ends on a total downer




CIA agents help NASA to fake the moon landings

I love the concept of the film but unfortunately execution and loose story let it down. The novelty of the found footage style wears off by the end.

Great plot, could've been shot better

Operation Avalanche has a great story and characters going for it. While I appreciate that it's meant to be a found-footage style movie, in this instance the camera shakes far too much. Up, down, zoom in, out, pan. Would've appreciated the camera guys taking it easy.

Great Stuff

Totally enjoyed this movie, well crafted, loved the way it showed the 60's (cars, fashion). Almost makes the conspiracy theory true!

Did it Happen

Takes wee bit to get into movie & what a conspiracy it is - whos tricking who. Brilliant way to film, you always seem to be looking though gauze in the 3rd person. Not till the credits roll do you understand what just went down....

Operation Avalanche

Great movie which we both enjoyed. Well written and acted , though somewhat quirky, and we would recommend it as a movie to see.