Aptly named for its subject matter, it never actually tells you how to make bombs, just like Andreas Malm’s non-fiction book it’s based on doesn’t either. Instead, the film focuses on an electric tightrope-walking thrill that keeps you on your toes throughout its entire duration.
under the radar
After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022, “How To Blow Up A Pipeline,” directed by Daniel Goldhaber and co-written by Ariela Barer, Goldhaber and Jordan Sjol, was released theatrically in April of this year. Considering the film’s wide critical acclaim, it’s somewhat surprising that not many have seen it, but it has apparently been seen as a potential threat to the FBI. Despite its more radical provisions, this is a movie I think more people should see, as it can bring change to those who feel powerless.
Comprised of the lives and different backgrounds of each key character in a team made up of mostly young people, the film works much like a heist movie. The stakes are clear from the start and he never backs down, never gives the audience a break. The core of the story is based on a very real and very dangerous project undertaken by ordinary people with a common goal: to disrupt the profits of Big Oil. As one of the main characters, Xóchitl (Ariela Barer) says, “this is not an act of terrorism, it is an act of self-defense”.
A persistent threat
The climate crisis is happening now. People all over the world and across the country are feeling its effects today. This is not a problem that we can try to mediate through legislation, as it is too late to try to reverse it. This sentiment runs deep in the veins of this story, the crux of which was balanced by two of the characters, Xochitl and Theo (Sasha Lane), who grew up near an oil refinery. Xochitl’s mom dies in a heat wave while his best friend Theo is diagnosed with leukemia, something common among people who apparently live near refineries.
So why these people are risking so much is revealed in human details, and not without question. During the first half, they deliberate and talk to each other about how their actions will really affect people. The characters know what is at stake. But in a world that is already dying, and with the state’s feigned ignorance, how else do we disrupt and survive in these unprecedented times?
The film is a taught exercise in the powers of cinema as a means to a driving force to fan the flames and climate frustration in radical means to an end. It puts real tangible power in the form of direct action into the hands of the working class. If you care about the planet even remotely and don’t mind a little eco-terrorism, watch this movie. It’s an impassioned letter to our precarious future that’s all too real and one of the best of the year by far.