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Film Review: ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ is a Riveting Eco-Thriller With High Stakes That Never Once Lets Up


How do you get a point across when it seems like no one is actually listening? Depending on the situation, you might raise your voice, bring in visual elements, or potentially go bigger. When it comes to environmental activism, there’s a segment of the community that sees bigger as the only option. In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, we see one way that a point can be made. It’s an extreme one, but presented with a clear head and sound rationale. This film snuck up on me with its gut-punch of a story, leaving a real mark.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is razor sharp with its lean and impactful story. Following a group of anti-heroes as they potentially engage in domestic terrorism is a fine line to walk, but this movie does it shockingly well. Whether it actually inspires any change or not is another story, but as just supremely effective filmmaking? It’s an unqualified success.


A group of young activists, consisting of Xochitl (Ariela Barer), Theo (Sasha Lane), Dwayne (Jake Weary), Rowan (Kristine Froseth), Logan (Lukas Gage), Michael (Forrest Goodluck), Alisha (Jayme Lawson), and Shawn (Marcus Scribner), have been activated by the book that gives the film its title. Considering themselves eco-activists but realizing that they’ll be labeled as eco-terrorists, they’ve come together to commit a crime. Namely, they’re literally going to blow up an oil pipeline, dealing actual damage to the corporation that’s causing so much harm to the world. Some have specific talents, like knowing where to place the bomb or the actual chemistry of making it, but they share a vision of an environment saved from, well…us.

As their plan is put into place, we cut back and forth from the tense action to understand how each of them got to this place. They have differing backstories and reasons for becoming radicalized, but they’ve come to this moment hoping to make a difference. If they succeed, what will happen next? Will they inspire a wave of this kind of activism? Either way, they first have to pull this off, or else they’ll simply end up in jail, or worse.


The cast form a very solid ensemble, with no one standing out but no one being dead weight. Whether it’s the drive of Ariela Barer and Sasha Lane, the rage of Forrest Goodluck, the quiet intensity of Jake Weary, or the smarminess of Lukas Gage, there’s a nice variety of personalities. Together, they form a diverse and realistic team of this sort. Supporting players include Loren Anthony, Irene Bedard, Giancarlo Beltran, Mariel Martinez, and more.

Filmmaker Daniel Goldhaber presents his movie with an urgency that’s often kinetic in its ability to take your breath away. Along with co-writers Ariela Barer (also co-starring, obviously) and Jordan Sjol, Goldhaber takes the book of the same name and makes his own narrative manifesto. The story is simple, but with precise direction, you’re on the edge of your seat from start to finish. In particular, whenever you think things are going to slow down in How to Blow Up a Pipeline, there’s a new gear to be found. I can’t wait to see what Goldhaber does next.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a riveting eco-thriller with consistently high stakes that never once lets up or allows you to breathe. It’s small in stature but with a loud voice. There’s a reason that this film has been steadily gaining attention and traction since last year’s fall festival season. Simply put, it has got the goods.

SCORE: ★★★1/2


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1 month ago

I blocked DC-MD Beltway with others in Oct in nonviolent action (of sitting) to get attention for our government to DeclareEmergency [.org] by disrupting. I really liked the movie, especially as it shows WE DID the BETTER action by not destroying, and barely in trouble for it.



Written by Joey Magidson

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