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Operation Avalanche is a 2016 American-Canadian found footage conspiracy thriller film directed by Matt Johnson, who co-wrote the film with Josh Boles. Johnson and Owen Williams star as CIA agents who infiltrate NASA to expose a potential mole, only to become embroiled in a conspiracy to fake the Moon landing portion of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.

Operation Avalanche
Film Poster for Operation Avalanche.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMatt Johnson
Produced by
  • Matthew Miller
  • Lee Kim
  • Matt Johnson
Written by
  • Matt Johnson
  • Josh Boles
  • Matt Johnson
  • Owen Williams
  • Andy Appelle
Music byJay McCarrol
  • Andy Appelle
  • Jared Raab
Edited byCurt Lobb
Distributed byLionsgate Premiere
Release date
Running time
94 minutes



Two CIA agents, part of the Agency’s (then) small Audio Visual (AV) Department, infiltrate NASA to expose a potential mole working for the Soviet Union. There, they find that NASA has kept its inability to reach the 1969 deadline for the Apollo 11 Moon landing a secret, with a plan to cover the problem by shooting down the Apollo 11 capsule (killing the real astronauts) and blaming the Soviets. When the young agents learn that the Moon mission can execute everything but the lunar landing itself, they become involved in a plot to use their AV skills to fake the landing portion. As their operation continues to a successful conclusion, the team becomes increasingly paranoid that they are being watched, by either the mole or by the CIA itself. As the Apollo 11 mission nears, the team buries copies of what becomes the found footage in a verdant rural field.


Many of the actors, including the five leads, used their real names. Those actors scrolled in the end credits as “Himself” or “Herself”, while others scrolled with their character’s name.

  • Matt Johnson
  • Owen Williams
  • Andy Appelle
  • Jared Raab
  • Josh Boles
  • Ray James as Director Brackett
  • Sharon Belle


Production took place in Toronto, Houston, and Washington, D.C., starting June 30, 2014.[2] The NASA scenes were shot on location. To get permission, Johnson told them he was making a student documentary.[3] Additional scenes were accomplished through liberal application of newly-permissive fair use laws.[4]


Operation Avalanche premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Johnson had received an offer to premiere the film at the Toronto International Film Festival but declined, reasoning that the film would be lost in the large number of films shown there.[5] Lionsgate released it in the US on September 16, 2016.[6]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 69% of 51 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.4/10.[7] Metacritic rated it 69/100 score based on 18 reviews.[8] Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, "Matt Johnson and Owen Williams' wild, borderline-illegal stunt delivers big time on its crazy premise."[9] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter called it a "likeable if not always convincing fantasy that gets much mileage from its period feel".[10] Anthony Kaufman of Screen Daily wrote that the film "comes across more as a rambling lark than a tightly conceived film".[1]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Canadian Screen Awards 12 March 2017 Best Motion Picture Matthew Miller, Lee Kim and Matt Johnson Nominated [11]
Best Director Matt Johnson Nominated
Best Overall Sound Matt Chan Nominated
Best Sound Editing Matt Chan, James Patrick and Frieda Bay Nominated
Best Costume Design Megan Oppenheimer Nominated
Best Visual Effects Tristan Zerafa Nominated
Kingston Canadian Film Festival 2017 People's Choice Award Matt Johnson Won [12]
Toronto Film Critics Association 11 December 2016 Best Canadian Film Runner-up [13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Kaufman, Anthony (2016-01-23). "'Operation Avalanche': Sundance Review". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  2. ^ Martin, Peter (2014-05-28). "Matt Johnson's CIA Thriller Operation Avalanche Gets North American Distribution". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on 2016-05-01. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  3. ^ Marsh, Calum (2015-12-31). "How Operation Avalanche director Matt Johnson boldly infiltrated NASA". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  4. ^ Howell, Peter (2016-01-23). "Sundance moonstruck by Operation Avalanche". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2016-05-15. Operation Avalanche relies heavily on recent updates to 'fair use' laws regarding artistic appropriation of material previously considered untouchable due to copyright restrictions.
  5. ^ "How Operation Avalanche director Matt Johnson boldly infiltrated NASA". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  6. ^ Murthi, Vikram (2016-07-21). "'Operation Avalanche' Trailer: Alt-History Doc Goes Behind-The-Scenes of Faking the Moon Landing". IndieWire. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  7. ^ "Operation Avalanche (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  8. ^ "Operation Avalanche". Metacritic. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  9. ^ Debruge, Peter (2016-01-29). "Sundance Film Review: 'Operation Avalanche'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  10. ^ DeFore, John (2016-01-22). "'Operation Avalanche': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  11. ^ Furdyk, Brent (17 January 2017). "2017 Canadian Screen Awards nominees revealed". Global News. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  12. ^ "07 Mar KCFF'17 Award Winners". Kingston Canadian Film Festival. 2017. Archived from the original on April 30, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  13. ^ Knight, Chris (January 11, 2017). "Toronto Film Critics Association names The Stairs best Canadian film of 2016". National Post. Archived from the original on November 27, 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2017.

External linksEdit