TIFF 2022 | How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Daniel Goldhaber, US) — Platform

By Will Sloan 

This loose adaptation of Andreas Malm’s 2021 memoir/manifesto about the political necessity of property destruction is aimed directly at the zeitgeist. Hoping to price fossil fuel out of the market, a diverse crew of Zoomer activists from the lower rungs of the economic ladder collaborate on a plot to destroy a crucial pipeline in Texas. The film cuts between the mission and the personal stories of each participant, which are peppered with all the political signifiers of our times: GoFundMe campaigns, systemic racism, the impotent politics of “raising awareness,” etc. Though sympathetic to and generally approving of radical protest, the film’s characters engage in much back-and-forth discourse on the effectiveness of such actions, and the moody synth score by Gavin Brivik signals that we’re entering murky moral waters.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a pacey, good-looking, and technically adroit thriller with effective suspense sequences smartly modeled on Clouzot (or perhaps Friedkin). One also wants to root for a movie so eager to directly address these troubled times. If it still feels to me a little less than the sum of its parts, I think it’s because there is not enough time for the characters in the large ensemble to emerge that they remain largely symbolic, and their dialogue too often has them sounding like mouthpieces for ideas that might have been more effective as subtext.