HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewHow To Blow Up A Pipeline - Film Review

How To Blow Up A Pipeline – Film Review

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how to blow up a pipeline film review
how to blow up a pipeline film review

Arriving with the crack and fizz of an important, contemporary film, is How To Blow Up A Pipeline. It comes to the Xbox Store at a time when – it seems – people are talking more about whether Just Stop Oil’s policy of disruption is justified, rather than their message. It’s a pressure that is shared with How To Blow Up A Pipeline until it explodes, figuratively and literally.

At its heart, How To Blow Up A Pipeline is a procedural movie. The camera latches onto a group of young activists as they move, step by incremental step, through the process of becoming a militant activist, finding others without gaining the attention of the government’s Eye of Sauron, forming a plan, making the bomb, and then triggering it. No step is missed, no detail is left unseen. This could have been named the Anarchist’s Cookbook and we wouldn’t have bat an eyelid.

It sounds dry and partisan, and on occasion it is. There are moments where the pace drops, as a flashback to earlier parts of the process – the recruitment in particular – releases some well-built tension. And should you want to criticise the politics of How To Blow Up A Pipeline, then sure – it takes climate annihilation as a given, and the activists are portrayed as heroes and, on occasion, martyrs. That might be unpalatable to some. But there’s an articulate, well presented argument for when disruption is acceptable, and who the disruption should be aimed at.

But while it’s focused more on the process and message than the people, necessarily, it still manages to build a throbbing momentum. The mission is never a given: there are so many obstacles, from the simple combustibility of a home-made bomb, to the threat of a mole in the group. This is an Oceans 11 where the tools are bought in a Walmart and could explode at any moment, while the crew have all learned their parts from YouTube tutorials.

Also shouldering the momentum are the cast. Mostly young and inexperienced actors. – Sasha Lane (Crowded Room, Hellboy) and Jayme Lawson (The Woman King) are perhaps the most recognisable – they bring a wholly authentic fire to the belly of the group. You believe that the global cause is lost; you feel that they are committed unequivocally to their cause. Regardless of your political skew, you will likely be willing them on.

This is not a straightforward, linear path to the bomb. Flashbacks punctuate the narrative, preceded by title cards of the characters’ names. These cards are a slight misnomer: often the character plays a bit-part, or the cast gatecrash the flashback. It’s an oddness that drew us out rather than pulled us in.

But the flashbacks mostly do a good job of showing why this kind of situation must be so rare. Recruiting activists is like the tentative first moments of a romance, as they try to find out just how much they believe. And the threat of undercover agents is always there. 

There’s an argument that How To Blow Up A Pipeline is a piece of anarchist wish-fulfilment: propaganda as a fairy tale. It certainly wraps up more neatly than it perhaps had to, which lends itself to that opinion. But if you can switch off the contemporary cynicism, then there’s a propulsive thriller here. 

We certainly know more about homebrew bombs than we did before watching How To Blow Up A Pipeline. View it as a procedural thriller, taking you through every minute detail of industrial sabotage, and it’s both fascinating and more exciting than you might expect. You might have to excuse an overly neat ending and some perceived preachiness, depending on your political persuasion, but it’s an important film to watch regardless.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • A fierce, angry thriller
  • The young cast do a sterling job
  • Has a fascination for detail
  • More innovatively structured than you might expect
Cons:
  • Pace drops when you least want it to
  • Ending is too neat
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 1hr 43mins | 2023
  • To rent/buy - £3.49/£9.99 SD, £4.49/£9.99 HD
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>A fierce, angry thriller</li> <li>The young cast do a sterling job</li> <li>Has a fascination for detail</li> <li>More innovatively structured than you might expect</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Pace drops when you least want it to</li> <li>Ending is too neat</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 1hr 43mins | 2023 <li>To rent/buy - £3.49/£9.99 SD, £4.49/£9.99 HD</li> </ul>How To Blow Up A Pipeline - Film Review
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