How to Blow Up a Pipeline Review – a volatile political thriller with hair-raising tension

By Marc Miller
Published: April 9, 2023 (Last updated: December 31, 2023)


How to Blow Up a Pipeline is an explosive political thriller that’s a throwback to 70s counterculture that sparks a hair-raising tension.

We review the 2022 film How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which does not contain spoilers.

On the surface, How to Blow Up a Pipeline may come across as an environment protection film or even a product of a woke millennial agenda, something you’ve seen in countless films over the past decade. For example, ones like Jessie Eisenberg’s film Night Moves or the Elliot Page vehicle The East. And to a certain extent, it can be.

However, Daniel Goldhaber’s (CAM) incendiary film is much more tightly focused, unsentimental, and succinctly captures the omnipotence that comes with a story about youthful dissidents.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022) Review and Plot Summary

How to Blow Up a Pipeline follows activists who want to target big oil in Texas. That includes the group’s leader, Xochitl (Barer), a young woman with terminal cancer, Theo (American Honey’s Sasha Lane), and her friend, Alisha (The Batman’s Jayme Lawson).

Michael (Cherry’s Forrest Goodluck) is a member of an indigenous community that has seen their land taken over by drillers. Logan (Euphoria’s Lukas Gage) and Rowan (Apostle’s Kristine Froseth) are a couple that cannot keep their hands off each other, especially when things begin to be dangerous.

Shawm (Black-ish’s Marcus Scribner) is a college student seeking a meaningful existence. And finally, there’s Dwayne (It Follows Jake Weary), a young Texan whose family land is stolen from him in the name of eminent domain.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline adapts Andreas Malm’s radical novel of the same name. Goldhaber wrote the script, along with RunawaysAriela Barer and Jordan Sjol. The team took Malm’s nonfiction novel of examples of activism and turned it into a tightly wound against-time thriller.

All while capturing something meaningful, remarkably current, and emotionally compelling. That’s a result of practically reinventing the source material.

How do they accomplish this? Adding well-plotted and paced backstories in flashbacks gives additional weight to the film’s best scenes and greater context. In particular, the environmental atrocities affect Barer and Lane’s characters the most. However, for my money, Goodluck’s Michael is by far the most interesting and well-drawn character.

You’ll be relieved that the film doesn’t teach anyone how to build a bomb. The director did his homework when consulting all sides of the aisle regarding this issue. Goldhaber employed anonymous counter-terrorism experts on how to do just that. This brings a raw and gritty authenticity to the film.

The script is so good you can understand the extremists and even oil pipeline experts’ motivation, one that calls for the cause but without an ecological disaster.

The most crucial part of Goldhaber’s film is the moral dilemmas regarding the evolution of activism. Betty Medsger once said that it’s not only an American’s right to perform dissidence but their duty to question authority. Are the characters activists or radicals?

They are definitely the latter because of the illegal actions. Yet, there has been a progression through social justice causes that have blurred the lines between the two. His film calls for the need for these definitions to be reset.

Is the 2023 movie How to Blow Up a Pipeline good?

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a good film, a volatile thriller throwback to the 70s counterculture films in tone and turbulent themes. Goldhaber is challenging the audience to question if eco-terrorism can ever be justified.

This can be inflammatory rhetoric for most depending on what end of the spectrum, or in the case, pipeline, you find yourself on. However, what you cannot argue is the hair-raising tension built here.

Not to mention the director’s intentional agitation to rile up his audience’s values and even fears.

What did you think of the 2023 movie How to Blow Up a Pipeline? Comment below.

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