Review by Camden Ferrell
How to Blow Up a Pipeline premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and has played numerous festivals leading up its wide release. It is the sophomore feature from director Daniel Goldhaber. Timely, intense, and tightly crafted, this is a thrilling movie about environmental social justice that dives deep into the passionate albeit murky waters of property destruction.
In this movie, a group of environmental activists come together to purposefully destroy and blow up a pipeline. Each of the people in this group has a unique backstory that explains their motives for doing so, and we watch as they try and execute their plans and learn more about what led them down this path. This is a uniquely engaging premise that is based on the book of the same name by Andreas Malm.
Written by Goldhaber, Ariela Barer, and Jordan Sjol, the script is quite good and only has problems with its structure. It’s the first feature script for Barer and Sjol, and they all show a strong understanding of the fundamentals of storytelling and character development. It’s an absolutely thrilling story that knows how to build up tension and give viewers a reason to empathize with a unique group of individuals. However, intermittent flashbacks can definitely alter the pacing and perception of certain scenes even though this structure isn’t done arbitrarily.
The performances in this movie are all strong, and nobody in the ensemble overpowers anyone else. It contains actors like Ariela Barer, Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, Lukas Gage and Kristine Froseth to name a few, and they all mesh together effortlessly. Their chemistry is strong from the start, and they all handle the intense subject matter and thrilling nature of the movie excellently. While it doesn’t contain any performances that I think are particularly mesmerizing, it is still one of the most balanced ensembles I’ve seen in a while.
What’s also great about this movie is its timely themes and bold messages. Goldhaber isn’t shy with approaching the more troubling and controversial aspects of this film’s premise. He doesn’t try and appeal to all audiences, and he doesn’t dilute the story to make it more palatable. Just like his debut film Cam, Goldhaber has a firm vision that he follows without worrying too much about how wide its reach will be. This, combined with some truly amazing sequences and pacing gives me strong hope that we’ll be seeing a lot more from this talented director in the future.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a thrilling experience with a strong emotional core. Its themes and positions on timely issues might not appeal to everyone, but it is bold and unapologetic in what it has to say. Its narrative structure is necessary, but the flashbacks do harm this film’s quality more than anything else. Visually creative and uniquely intense, this is definitely a movie worth checking out.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is in theaters April 7.