How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Directed by: Daniel Goldhalber
Distributed by: Neon

Written by Taylor Baker


Interpreting and engaging with films centered on activism around contemporary politics is a challenge. Daniel Goldhalber’s adaptation of Andreas Malm’s book How to Blow Up a Pipeline is no exception. The film plays out as one might expect a film centered on misanthropic young adults aligned with a cause. The film’s slew of characters largely regurgitate uninterrogated contemporary sentiments regarding climate change, and rather than digging into the particular nuances of coastal sea health, local health quality of those around industrial operations, or the all too common illegal acquisition of resources, instead these young characters proudly commit various rebellious activities and a planned act of domestic terrorism, for which the film is named. Their actions we’re meant to infer are caused by their life experiences communicated through a smattering of flashbacks meant to elicit the audience’s empathy. 

Where the film does become interesting is its demonstration of the negative traits of its characters, and it is through that perspective that the film is particularly engaging. These aren’t well-studied individuals aware of macro socio-economic truths attempting to employ a strategy that limits current suffering while planning ahead, no these are young adults operating as well-intentioned acolytes to what is the popular belief of the day. And those good intentions have consequences that outside of a fireside throwaway line from a concerned character who mentions that it takes a lifetime to build something, remain unaddressed.

Ultimately Goldhalber’s film is unconvincing and doesn’t begin to touch on the complexity of the issue its central event is built upon. It’s no mystery what attitudes the filmmakers hope you walk away from the film with, and that more than anything undercuts their mission. A skeptical viewer might be unnerved by just how similar the arguments of fundamental Christians are to the diatribes about the looming environmental apocalypse in the film, and thus the violence they claim those beliefs entitle them to.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” Trailer

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

2 thoughts on “How to Blow Up a Pipeline

  1. Except the kids in this movie are, however misguided you may think, objectively correct based on actual science. Fundamental Christians base their actions and beliefs on a book with zero basis in reality. The conclusion you’ve drawn from this movie is asinine.

    1. Hello James, could you please share with me the source(s) that show that removing oil resources will have a positive benefit on lifespans?

      While I’m sympathetic especially to pollution and land seizure, the data shows quite clearly what happens to people when you remove oil and they resort to wood, coal, and dung for their heating needs and power energy plants with coal. As uncomfortable as the next 80ish years will be as we migrate to renewable sources blowing up oil pipelines will not save lives.

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