From making a dark comedy about a premeditated school shooting to slightly deceiving NASA while making a faux-documentary within a faux-documentary, it’s safe to claim that filmmaker Matt Johnson is a bit of a renegade. But similar to his storytelling innovation in The Dirties, Johnson finds a new way to twist old tales in Operation Avalanche.
Operation Avalanche is a tough cookie to explain, which is fine because its best for the viewer to experience this elaborating narrative cold. Writer/director Johnson has a unique quality to his filmmaking in that his films are impossible to predict. He earns his audience’s interest through a risky, ambitious premise, and wins over viewers with a sharp sense of humour and immaculate attention to detail. He solidifies that approach in Operation Avalanche by taking this method quite literally (the film begins with an actual pitch), but he receives the acceptance all the same.
As someone who saw strengths in Johnson’s previous film, it’s interesting to see how he’s carried them over to a new genre under tightened maturity in his sophomore feature. This time, those same authentic feelings stemming from moderated improvisation are applied to a period piece concerning madcap CIA agents manipulating the moon landing. The performances are genuine and stay consistent to the raised stakes in the story (including Johnson as a compelling lead, and the film’s cinematographers in key roles).
Operation Avalanche treats the history of moon landing conspiracies as a game of “broken telephone”. The story conceived by Johnson and co-writer Josh Boles (who also appears on screen in Operation Avalanche) is made up of fragmented information to create an original, engulfing adventure that generates spontaneous comedy, a period film that dares us to question, and a nail-biting espionage thriller; making Operation Avalanche a winner on multiple levels.
Operation Avalanche opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, September 30. The filmmakers and select talent will be in attendance at the 7:00pm showtime on September 30 and October 1 to take part in a post-screening Q&A.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie