Home MoviesReviews How to Blow Up A Pipeline Review

How to Blow Up A Pipeline Review

by Daniel Reynolds
4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Despite the import and danger implied by its title, director Daniel Goldhaber’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a small-scale affair. As penned by Goldhaber, star Ariela Barer, and Jordan Sjol, it is writ small for an action thriller. Yet its subversion of the usual structuring tropes and outcomes of the form feels massive. In effect, this is a film that tells us exactly what it is, instructs us even—and then pushes us to believe, too.

At the outset, the narrative economy of How to Blow Up a Pipeline works as both a focussing tool and background for its mission. It presents a cast of characters in prosaic terms, selected as a representative cross-section of society; then it sharply illustrates not just what unifies them, but how they arrive at the same conclusion via different starting points. There’s Xochitl (Barer) and Theo (Sasha Lane), dealing with grief and disillusionment; bomb-maker Michael (Forrest Goodluck), a prickly Indigenous man with good reason to be angry; and even a good ol’ boy named Dwayne (Jake Weary) who gets it. Their cell adds others without the need for total familial or even friendship bonds to survive—just clear-eyed vision. While budget constraints likely played a part, Goldhaber right-sizes his work in a similar manner. This is a film unconcerned with flash, crafted via a production and performances that have a function if not flair, leading to a suspenseful payoff made all the more satisfying due to its relative brevity. The film has a point and gets to it.

True to that title, though, we have to reflect on the utility of How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Being intentional with a film has its value, but being overly prescriptive can undermine art’s true power. The difference here plays out via the stakes: a less urgent political film often nails itself to a point in time, deforming into something quaint or useless in retrospect. By comparison, Goldhaber’s film succeeds because it explores—and explodes—the only issue that matters.

You may also like

Brief Take