The Moya View

How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Oh, Just Get on With It

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Summary via IMDB:

Theo and Xochitl, lifelong companions from Long Beach, California, a city riddled with pollution from multiple oil refineries, are now in their twenties. After Xochitl’s mother passes away during an unexpected heatwave that she attributes to climate change, she becomes disillusioned with the sluggish pace of her college divestment campaign. Seeking more aggressive environmental action, she shares her thoughts with Theo, who is battling leukemia. Together with Theo’s girlfriend Alisha and five strangers driven by their own motives, they devise a scheme to detonate an oil pipeline in West Texas.


Review:

How to Blow Up a Pipeline tries to take a political, seemingly terrorist act, and make it non-political.

The film is based on a nonfiction tract of the same title by the Swedish academic Andreas Malm. There are no instructions on how to actually blow up a pipeline in Malm’s treatise. It’s just a hypothetical call for action that he cleverly justifies. A lot of it can be found in the agitprop dialogue of the characters in the movie.

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Pipeline, directed by Daniel Goldhaber, does show the reasoning, the process of bomb building and the destruction- both physical and human. It’s a interesting attempt more valuable as a study on the extremist mentality than it is an action thriller. That is probably why Goldhaber keeps on cutting to character flashbacks at points of high drama and action. It explodes motivations and characterizations in all directions. The actual explosions are pretty small scale, almost anticlimactic. This is a terrorist act designed not to kill people but blow a hole in the oil economy with the least environmental impact.

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This is the usual ragtag ensemble found in action movies. Even the execution is pretty formulaic: airtight plans that prove not so airtight, roving camerawork, retro zooms over a trendy if derivative score.

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The motivations are varied. Half are ecological and political. The rest are a Native American and private landowner dealing with being displaced thru the use of eminent domain to build the pipeline on their land. There is one devil’s advocate to keep it from being politically lopsided. There are a few rich kids rebelling.

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As a roughed up caper film, Pipeline works extremely well. The details and the fraying group dynamic are Pipeline’s highlight and strength. The echoing of past with present political conscience and current self is its main theme. The militarism and politics is just a hook. It is contrived, but when it’s on point it can be riveting.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline gets a 3.0 out of 5 or a B. It’s streaming now on Hulu.


Credits:

Directed by

Daniel Goldhaber

Written by

Based on

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

by Andreas Malm

Produced by

  • Isa Mazzei
    • Daniel Goldhaber
    • Ariela Barer
    • Adam Wyatt Tate
    • David Grove Churchill Viste
    • Alex Black
    • Alex Hughes

Starring

Cinematography

Tehillah De Castro

Edited by

Daniel Garber

Music by

Gavin Brivik

Production

companies

Distributed by

Neon

Release dates

  • September 10, 2022(TIFF)
  • April 7, 2023(United States)

Running time

104 minutes[1]

Country

United States

Language

English


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