Review | How to Blow Up a Pipeline | 2023
Daniel Goldhaber's harrowing eco-thriller, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, follows a ragtag band of environmental activists as they plan to bomb a major oil pipeline to strike a blow against big oil in an effort to disrupt oil distribution and push for alternative fuels to help stymie global warming.
Each activist has their own motivations, from radical left wing environmentalists to right wing sovereign citizens protesting their land being seized by imminent domain to build the pipeline, all united in a common goal of fighting against a global machine that has placed profits over people and the future of the planet.
It's a film that feels surprisingly radical in its advocacy for direction action over incremental change, and attempts to grapple with how the ripple effects of that action may hurt those it seeks to help more than than its intended targets. It's something I wish the film had dug deeper into rather that simply use it as a kind of throwaway character conflict, because there are some interesting ideas here - the need for direct action, the futility of incremental change in the face of an urgent climate crisis, and it seems to understand that radical change will be painful in the short term by necessity.
That feels like it's where the true conflict lies, but it gets mostly buried in the suspense of the operation itself, which is a tremendous work of hair-trigger tension. Goldhaber's film feels like an environmental call to action by way of the Safdie brothers, set to a hair-raising score by Gavin Brivik. Goldhaber cuts the action so that each moment of suspense gets delayed by a flashback that shows each character's raison d'etre, constantly ratcheting up the stakes at every turn. As a work of suspense and a call to radical action, it's hard to shake its power, but it also feels like there was even more interpersonal tension and ideological conflict between its characters that was left on the cutting room floor.