Operation Avalanche (2016)

(On Cable TV, July 2017) Here’s a sad truth, offered in good faith from a humble reviewer to filmmakers out there: Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how good a movie is, if it happens to offend the person reviewing it. Now, I’m not easily offended (have you seen what I review?), but I have a special dark place in my heart for anti-science conspiracy theories, and one of the worst ones out there is the idea that the moon landings were faked. It spits in the face of fact, belittles one of humanity’s proudest human achievement and serves no useful purpose other than affirm the believer’s skewed sense of reality. (The only thing that calms me down, somewhat, is the belief that most of the time, the Moon-landing hoax is used in a satirical fashion as a parody of conspiracy theories—it’s a self-referring conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories rather than something that actual people believe.) So, so see a movie like Operation Avalanche play with the basic elements of this conspiracy theory, justifying and explaining how such a conspiracy could be achieved, just simply rubs me the wrong way. Which is too bad, because in a more objective frame of mind, I could recognize the film’s achievements—the way it works with a small budget to present a vast conspiracy, the way it cleverly re-creates its late-sixties atmosphere, the way it cranks up the tension steady. As a low-budget found footage film, it offers something interesting. On the other hand, writer/director/star Matt Johnson’s movie is undeniably flawed: the mockumentary/found footage aspect is frustrating (some of the sequences can’t be justified), the out-of-focus camera Can’t! Stop! Shaking!, the lurch from comedy to deadly thriller is disappointing as evidence that the film is taking itself seriously, and the actors can be annoying. It doesn’t help that the film ends like most found-footage films end, with bad things happening to nearly everyone. None of those annoyances make me feel any better toward a film I was predisposed to dislike despite the curiosity factor of seeing micro-budget filmmakers tackle such a big topic. But who said reviewing was supposed to be objective?

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