Sneak Peek: Operation Avalanche
In 1967, during the height of the Cold War, two young CIA agents (Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) go undercover at NASA to investigate a possible Russian mole. In disguise as documentary filmmakers, they tap phones and break into offices while purporting to learn more about the Apollo project. But when they end up uncovering a shocking NASA secret – and a major government cover-up – they decide to embark on a new mission that may put their own lives at risk.
Lionsgate Premiere presents an XYZ Films production, in association with Zapruder Films and Resolute Films and Entertainment.
Directed by: Matt Johnson
Written by: Matt Johnson & Josh Boles
Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, and Josh Boles
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Run Time: 93 minutes
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Critic: The Ref got a chance to see a screening without me. How dare she!
The Referee: Oh, oh, oh. (laughter) I was so lonely!
Critic: (laughing) Well, of course, I wasn’t there. Now, this is “Operation Avalanche,” which comes out September 16 in a theater near you. It’s directed by Matt Johnson. He also co-wrote it with Josh Boles.
Ref: And stars. (laughs)
Critic: Yeah, he’s starring in it, along with Owen Williams and Josh Boles!
Critic: Yeah. So, you gotta tell us about this one, Ref. What in the world is going on? Because, I saw the poster —
Ref: (laughs) OK, so, “Operation Avalanche” is a fictional take on the landing on the moon the United States had in the ‘60s. So, it’s a fictional take; it’s not based on actual reality. But, they took [the] essence of reality and decided to create this story, and let me tell you about it. So, it starts off with these very smart — Matt Johnson, along with Owen Williams and Josh Boles — they are these smart graduates of these Ivy League schools that the CIA has hired to do a specific project. Matt Johnson is, sort of, the ringleader of the three and his group: very ambitious, very ambitious, which is good to note later on in the movie. He wants to climb the CIA ladder. Now, what happens is: All at once, President Kennedy announces that we will have an American land on the moon and safely return. Up until then, they have not had that happen. We’re also in the middle of the Cold War with Russia. So, there’s a lot of dynamics going on and pressure on NASA to get that spacecraft to the moon, land safely, and then return safely.
Ref: So, what happens is: There is a mole in NASA. [The] CIA gets information that there’s a mole.
Critic: And, we know where that mole is coming from (laughter) because of the time period.
Ref: That’s right. It’s a Russian mole.
Ref: And, all of a sudden, their resources focus on NASA, because there is a fight for Russia to get spacecraft on the moon, along with the Americans.
Ref: And, what they do is, they send this elite group of guys to go — and, it’s actually Matt Johnson’s idea — to go into NASA as a documentary film crew (laughs), filming the behind-the-scenes of NASA so that they can get into secret places and get all sorts of access. But, also, they’re using that — because the mole will be relaxed — to smoke out the mole!
Critic: So, NASA has them infiltrate NASA.
Ref: No, [the] CIA is —
Ref: — infiltrating NASA. (laughs)
Critic: Oh! (laughs)
Ref: But, yes! The CIA is spying on NASA —
Ref: — to get the Russian mole. Now, what ends up happening is: Matt Johnson gets information — the director — he gets information that they actually cannot land on the moon. (laughter) They can’t seem to get it done, and we’re talking: Apollo 11 is coming up fast. So, he gets a bright idea.
Ref: He says, “Wait a minute. Why don’t we just do what Stanley Kubrick did in his latest film?” (laughing) And, they actually go to Stanley Kubrick’s set and get all of Stanley Kubrick’s filming techniques —
Critic: I can’t take any more of this! (laughter)
Ref: It’s hilarious. It’s crazy. They go on the set, grab all the secrets from Stanley Kubrick, and actually fake a landing —
Ref: — on the moon.
Critic: So, conspiracy theorists are gonna go nuts with this?
Ref: Yes. Are they successful? I don’t know. (laughter) But, what happens is: They get a lot more [than] what they bargained for; because, not only is Russia not happy with this, but there could be a mole inside the CIA. So, there are a lot of questions, a lot of conspiracies going on. And we’ll just leave the plot at that. Now —
Critic: Oh, we’re leaving it there? (laughter)
Ref: Let’s talk about the actual movie. You’re going to have to watch it to find out what else happens, ‘cause a lot does.
Ref: The actual movie is shot in documentary style.
Critic: Of course.
Ref: So, get this: It’s a film, shot in documentary style, about people who are pretending to be documentarists (laughter) … who are really CIA agents. So, follow that rabbit hole. So, you get a lot of the feel of “The Office.” Now, you also have this whole Cold War, Russian, kind of, spy thing. You get some hints that this director and the writers, they’re watching “The Americans.” You also — it’s during the late ‘60s; you get pregnant women smoking. So, you get this, like —
Ref: — essence of “Mad Men.”
Ref: You can tell that these guys were really influenced. Here’s the one word I have about this movie —
Ref: It’s an ambitious movie. It doesn’t always work. In fact, there are many times it doesn’t work, but I have to applaud these guys for putting this crazy story together. And, then, doing it the way that they did, because every scene is shot as if it were being captured on camera. Now, do all of those scenes work? ‘Cause I’m very particular about that, especially when I watch “The Office” or “Parks and Rec” — anything that has any kind of camera [that’s] supposed to represent an actual, physical person —
Ref: — who’s supposed to be there. You get scenes where he’s on his bed, eating pizza, watching TV, and a cameraman wouldn’t be there —
Ref: — filming it, at least. And, also, what happens is: The film is very comedic; there’s a lot of improv. I don’t know Matt Johnson and his crew, but, apparently, they’re big in Canada. This is by Canadians, and, yes, they did have Canadian accents. And, yes, it did throw the Referee off when they said “out” and “sorry.”
Ref: So, these are supposed to be Americans. So, I was just like, “Uh, I wish you could’ve worked on that.” But, overall, it’s an entertaining movie. It’s a very entertaining concept. At the end — it’s starts off as a comedy or has light, comedic moments, very witty, sort of long pauses, that kind of thing —
Ref: It ends up something else. So, it does shift in the movie.
Ref: It becomes a thriller, supposedly, with the car chasing and, you know, the unexpected deaths.
Both: Ooh. Oh.
Ref: So, I mean, it just sort of morphs into something a little bit different. But, what I will say is: If you happen to stumble into a theater and you’re saying, “You know, I just kinda want to watch this” — you won’t be thoroughly disappointed. You’ll be entertained.
Ref: And, you’ll walk out going, “You know what? For the budget that they had, for the lack of experience with the writers and the actors and the directors, this was an ambitious movie that didn’t quite fall flat on its face.” It is an enjoyable movie. So, yeah. That’s my verdict.
Critic: OK. Well, that sounds like a whole bunch in an hour and a half! (laughs)
Ref: It’s a lot going on, but, then again, you know, that’s what ambition does, right?
Critic: Yes, it does. So, everybody, you make the call! Again, “Operation Avalanche” will be in theaters September 16.