How to Blow Up a Pipeline – The Varsity

How to blow up a pipeline keeps what its name promises. It’s surprisingly close to being a real guide, deserving praise and respect for how intelligently it deals with the radical issue of extreme environmental activism.

The film is based on a non-fiction book of the same name, which argues that sabotage is a legitimate form of environmental activism. But the film is far from a documentary; Director Daniel Goldhaber and his collaborators Ariela Barar, Jordan Sjol and Daniel Garber – all four of whom interestingly share the main credit of being a film of – embed a complex discussion of the ethics of ecoterrorism in a tight, focused and unrelenting thriller.

The crew of the film’s “Heist” implements the book’s ideas and aims to blow up portions of a Texas pipeline in order to skyrocket oil prices around the world and force concrete action on fossil fuels .

The ensemble of characters come from a variety of contexts, from working class Central America to higher education to an indigenous reservation. Each character represents a different facet of the climate discussion, and the environmental crisis negatively impacts each of them in unique ways.

How to blow up a pipelineThe greatest strength and originality of is how driving and exciting it is. No time is wasted – within minutes the characters are on their way to a cabin in Texas to construct giant explosives far from the rest of society. The movie plays out exactly like a heist: different team members have different specialties, so they split up into groups and complete multiple risky tasks without being spotted.

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Things go well and wrong, plans change on the fly, and characters make mistakes and experience a close shave. Not every character is super compelling, but there are some standout performances, including Forrest Goodluck’s low-key, layered performance, as well as those of Kristine Froseth and Lukas Gage, who give an outspoken and funny portrayal of an anxious couple.

The filmmakers and most of the cast are fairly young, and the film treads in the occasionally unconvincing, uninhibited young-adult territory — but it generally feels fairly authentic, which is a huge compliment.

Despite the suspenseful portrayal of a grumpy subject, the film cannot be accused of exploitation: How to blow up a pipelineThe genre trappings of create a framework that is arguably more accessible and just as informative as a purely informative documentary could have been.

Fusing the essence of the book into an original idea suitable for another medium is a feat of creative adaptation. It has an incredible, pounding synth score; It was shot on 16mm film in a style reminiscent of 70’s thrillers wizard; and is edited with a sharp rhythm that gracefully ties the non-linear narrative together. It took a while for the carefully constructed tension to really hit me, but when it did, the moments of release were breathtaking and immensely satisfying.

The film also strikes a delicate balance — it’s not propaganda urging audiences to wage guerrilla warfare against fossil-fuel infrastructure, but it also doesn’t paint the characters negatively for disrupting the order of society. In a similar film, Kelly Reichardt’s 2013 film night movements, the main characters blow up a dam midway through the film and spend the rest languishing with guilt and regret. The inculcation of guilt seems natural in a narrative of such a controversial act, but How to blow up a pipeline refreshingly and radically avoids such an implied judgment.

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The characters’ backstories form a fairly elaborate exploration of the different perspectives on whether or not their mission is morally justifiable. Their conversations — including a drunken one at the beginning of the film about whether they’re considered “terrorists” and whether the term is inherently negative — shed direct light on many of climate protection’s most sensitive issues, but never feel manipulative. The film leaves it to the audience whether the deeds are actually justified.

In the midst of an increasingly grim climate crisis, ecoterrorism is a complicated issue with no easy answers. The film embraces this ambiguity, and its lack of an explicit perspective on morality feels far more radical and impactful than a play clearly designed to win over audiences.

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