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How To Blow Up a Pipeline ★★★★★



Director: Daniel Goldhaber

Cast: Ariela Barer, Jake Weary, Sasha Lane, Marcus Scribner, Jayme Lawson, Forrest Goodluck, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage

Release Date: 21st April 2023

Amidst the post-Parasite onslaught of toothless political satires such as The Menu and Triangle of Sadness, few things could be more startling and exciting than the sheer existence of a film like How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Loosely based on Andreas Malm’s hotly debated monograph of the same name, the latest film from director Daniel Goldhaber and producer Isa Mazzei (the creative duo behind Cam, one of the best Blumhouse-backed features) is an exhilarating eco-thriller, framed through the lens of relentless late-capitalist oppression. Not since Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves have we had a complex treatise on eco-terrorism and mass surveillance, let alone one that’s as combative and expertly staged as this.

Set in the present day, at the height of the climate crisis, the film follows a group of eight American citizens from different backgrounds who decide to take matters into their own hands. Frustrated with the inefficiency of peaceful climate activism and predatory government-funded practices, the group sets their sights on an oil pipeline in West Texas.

Told through a series of flashbacks, the film functions primarily in the mode of an anxiety-inducing caper: a set of protagonists, each with their motivation for such an act of self-defence in the face of impending apocalypse, try to pull off one of the most impressive DIY “attacks” ever put to screen. Not unlike Bertrand Bonnello’s very different Nocturama, Goldhaber’s work is rooted in intense disdain for the state systems in place, the Western consumerist culture fostering a fertile ground for complacency. It’s quite ironic that a film with such an ostensibly provocative title is merely a rational, angry response to the catastrophe unfolding before our very eyes. As one of the characters in the film remarks about Malm’s book, “it doesn’t really explain how to” – and it doesn’t have to.

In addition to being a renegade conversation starter, Goldhaber’s film is a formal wonder. Shot on 16mm, Pipeline’s got that gritty look of hip New York cinema, fueled by a dirtbag left approach to the material at hand. It’s the perfect balance of youthful edginess and sobering didacticism, with radical change being at the forefront of the film’s formal qualities as well. The pulsating electronic score by Gavin Brivik further amplifies the explosive narrative, basking in the aura of perpetual tension. Much like its core messaging, each aspect of the film is as far removed from convention as possible while still functioning within the realm of multiplex-friendly cinema.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is just as phenomenal as its title suggests: urgent, incendiary filmmaking that combines exhilarating thrills with vital Marxist ideas. Few works these days can provide such an accessible venture into revolutionary politics, let alone make it so remarkably nerve-wracking.

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