Moon landing hoaxsters will undoubtedly be very happy with Operation Avalanche. After all it shows how Nasa could have faked the Apollo 11 mission and how - as many of the conspiracy theorists have posited - 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick was involved.

If they are happy, then good. The joke's actually on them. After all, it's a film that is powered mostly by entertaining stupidity before it takes a running jump into being taken seriously and fails to make the leap. Which is pretty much the arc of landing deniers' arguments. Fun at first, over-reaching and a bit silly in the end.

Scene from the movie, Operation Avalanche.
Scene from the movie, Operation Avalanche.

What Operation Avalanche also is, is 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. Everything on screen, other than vintage Nasa footage, is supposedly shot by the crew at the centre of the action, and it's cleverly carried off.

It's also something of a love letter to Kubrick.

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Not only does the film visit the Shepperton Studios set of 2001 and get his autograph, it starts with a mention of the CIA investigation into whether he was a spy after Dr Strangelove pointed out the absurdities of the Cold War.

Director-actor Matt Johnson plays a bright young film buff recruited from Harvard by the Agency into their audio-visual department who is sent as part of a fake doco team to hunt a Russian mole at Nasa in Houston. (Amusingly, Johnson turned up at the real Johnson Space Center pretending to be a doco maker to get his footage of Mission Control.)

Scene from the movie, Operation Avalanche.
Scene from the movie, Operation Avalanche.

While he's there, he stumbles on a secret about the lunar mission which will likely give the Soviets the lead in the space race, so persuades his bosses he could fake the moon landing on camera, which he starts doing after some inspiration from Kubrick.

But as cameras roll on the fake moon shoot, it seems outside forces are taking a keen interest.

Scene from the movie, Operation Avalanche.
Scene from the movie, Operation Avalanche.

What started out as retro conspiracy comedy abruptly becomes paranoid thriller. It works better earlier on, as a mockumentary high on its own supply of faked lunar-landing lunacy.


Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Andrew Appelle, Josh Boles
Director: Matt Johnson
Rating: M violence and offensive language
Running time: 94 mins
Verdict: Houston, we have an amusing problem...