The Reel Review
Frustrated by the world’s lack of progress in reversing environmental ruin, eight young environmental activists take matters into their own hands and decide to blow up an oil pipeline in West Texas, in this neo-Western crime thriller based on Andreas Malm’s controversial 2021 novel.
Politically, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a bold and very divisive film. Advocating for the destruction of the U.S. infrastructure will anger those who oppose ecoterrorism while exciting those few who favor it. But as pure entertainment, this heist crime thriller, co-written by director Daniel Goldhaber, Jordan Sjol, and Ariela Barer, who also stars as Xochitl, is pretty intense. Over the course of the film, carefully timed flashbacks interrupt cliffhanger moments to reveal each of the ecoterrorists’ personal motives for their actions.
Despite its controversial subject matter, How to Blow Up a Pipeline at times suffers from formulaic, contrived storytelling, too many thinly fleshed out characters, not so great acting, and a bit of one-sided, spoon-fed preachiness that rings a bit hollow. But quick editing and a pulse-pounding score at least keeps the story interesting, as you wonder just how it all is going to end.
• Swedish environmental activist Andreas Malm says he wrote How to Blow Up a Pipeline out of frustration that pacifism isn’t doing enough to reverse climate change.
• Although set in West Texas, How to Blow Up a Pipeline was filmed in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico.
• Irene Bedard, who plays bombmaker Michael’s mother in the film, was the voice of Pocahontas in the 1995 Disney animated film.