4 1/2 Stars Movies

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2023)

This may be the best film of the year so far.

“If the American Empire is calling us terrorists then we are doing something right.”

This quote from Michael (Forrest Goodluck) is one of the hidden elements of How to Blow a Pipeline that make it more than just a hard core conservative’s nightmare of a film (the title alone would make one queasy). 

Yet the character does not say “America”, “the country”, or even “the government”: he thinks of the authorities as an empire. That does not make us percieve him and his cohorts as heroes but as anti-heroes.

The plot is almost entirely in the title alone, based off a book of the same name by Andreas Malm, as a group of eclectic characters work together to…well, blow up a pipeline in two separate locations in West Texas.  

The spear header of the group is Xochitl (Ariela Barer, also a producer on the film), who, after the untimely death of her mother, brings up the idea of more radical solutions to climate change. With her friend Theo (Sasha Banks), Theo’s girlfriend Alisha (Jayme Lawson), and Shawn (Marcus Scribner), they mobilize the aforementioned Michael (who is the explosives expert of the group). Also in on the project is Logan (Lucas Gage), his girlfriend Rowan (Kristine Froseth), and Dwayne (Jake Weary).

Rather than tell the story sequentially, the film does jump back in time at seemingly random points to show why each character has chosen to participate in this mission. Admittedly, I did feel a tad annoyed at this gimmick, but not because I did not care about the character depth of each individual. It was because of the action happening in the present.

The result of director Daniel Goldhaber’s filmmaking is nothing short of bloodcurdling. I am not shy in stating that I have virtually zero knowledge of how bombs work (nor do I ever play to personally find out), so all the scenes where characters had to handle cautionary substances had chills in bones I don’t get chills in often. It is reminiscent of shades of the great 1953 French thriller The Wages of Fear.

Parents, the movie is too intense for anyone under High School age.

Recently, I saw the rather disappointing Nefarious, which was definitely on the other end of the political spectrum. It is no secret that right winged propaganda films (christian or otherwise) don’t due well with critics. Maybe it is true when right wingers blame film critics for being too leaning toward the left.

 Or, perhaps, it is just because right winged film makers that tend to worry more about propaganda and their message don’t care about the quality of the story or craft of their films.

Or, maybe, perhaps, they use too much CO2?

This may be the best film of the year so far.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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