How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is as incendiary as it sounds. Originally a 2021 nonfiction book by Swedish author Andreas Malm whose politics on climate change have been described as Marxist. He advocates eco-terrorism; that is, he maintains that economic sabotage is an effective form of environmental activism. It’s a controversial opinion.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (the movie) is a creative adaptation of his book into a fictional story. It concerns a disparate (and desperate) group of youthful zealots that decide to do precisely that. It’s an extreme undertaking and not easily defensible. Nevertheless, one need not subscribe to Andreas Malm’s beliefs on how to protest for change. It is a tense thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat as this faction of radicals attempts this task. The impending danger that the bomb makers will inadvertently blow themselves up is a constant threat.” Will they accomplish the deed?” is an ongoing question.

The diverse band of eight young actors is charismatic. Each one has a backstory that offers just enough info as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, he co-wrote the screenplay with Ariela Barer and Jordan Sjol. Co-writer Ariela Barer also stars as Xochitl, the eco-terrorist organizer whose mother died after a freak heatwave accident. Xochitl’s childhood friend Theo (Sasha Lane) has been diagnosed with leukemia due to toxic pollution. Meanwhile, Native American Michael (Forrest Goodluck), frustrated with his mother’s pacifism, relies on Youtube tutorials to make homemade bombs. Dwayne (Jake Weary) is a married father with a baby daughter. The government has seized his land and home due to imminent domain. Actors Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage, Jayme Lawson, and Marcus Scribner portray the other four. The cast’s naturalistic performances and the film’s low-budget aesthetic add significantly to the atmosphere. The cinematography almost feels like someone in that collective was documenting their work.

The tenets of good old-fashioned storytelling bolster this chronicle. The account paints this discontented gang as idealistic heroes. The filmmakers are sympathetic to their ideology. Yet this propaganda is compelling for reasons that have nothing to do with accepting the writer’s worldview. As these anarchists explain their motivations, we get a fully realized portrait of their cause. Those existing on the left and right-wing fringes have more in common than you might think. These personalities blame fossil fuel companies for all their various problems, and that despair is gradually suffused with an air of delusion. These aren’t perfect people, but hey — highly flawed individuals have always been more entertaining. This depiction imbues nuance and subtlety that elevates it to the next level. I was captivated by their humanity, if not their methods.


5 Responses to “How to Blow Up a Pipeline”

  1. This was intense and entertaining. I too liked how they didn’t overdo the backstories. I like the naturalism of the characters. 4 ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t seen this yet but this reminds me a lot of Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves, about three people who blow up a dam in the middle of the night. For the same reasons, you don’t necessarily condone the protagonists’ actions but you’re impelled to see what happens next. That was great drama, if uncomfortable at times. This sounds much the same

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Blowing up a pipeline!? Timing’s as good as China Syndrome just after Three Mile Island. And the subject matter’s about as relevant.

    For bigger thrills though, how about “How to Blow Up a World Trade Center”?


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