Last year, the runaway success story at a Toronto International Film Festival light on headline-making deals was How to Blow Up a Pipeline, a politically daring, ideologically uncompromised, and gratuitously entertaining thriller that secured a splashy distribution buy from Neon. Those not on site instantly started clamoring for a look of their own at the rare film that appeared to be worthy of its reputation as edgy, and after months of radio silence, they’re soon to get it.
Neon has just shared the first trailer for How to Blow Up a Pipeline, the sophomore feature from Cam director Daniel Goldhaber. (Cam’s co-creator Isa Mazzei is credited as a producer on the latest; on Pipeline, Goldhaber shares film-by honors with writer-producer-star Ariela Barer, co-writer Jordan Sjol, and editor Dan Garber, all of whom sat for an interview on activist cinema in our recent All the Beauty and the Bloodshed issue). Adapted into a fiction narrative from Andreas Malm’s controversy-stirring theory book of the same name, it raises some salient points about our collective responsibility to our planet, and the rationales for destruction implied therein. The time to do something has come.
The ticking-clock film tracks the tense planning and hair-trigger execution of a plan to safely, ethically destroy a length of oil transport pipe in west Texas, carried out by a cross-cultural coalition of alienated, principled subversives each with their own reasons to strike back against Big Energy. As they race to carry out their multi-front operation, flashbacks reveal the origin stories bringing them to these extreme measures, joining to form a cross-section of resentment for the institutions that exploit and capitalize on the suffering of powerless individuals.
Little White Lies’ own Mark Asch had plenty of good things to say about the film out of its TIFF premiere, praising the way it “channels the urgent fury, righteous impatience, confrontational attitude and pragmatic directness of the rising generation of climate activists.” In his review, he wrote: “A frankly rousing action movie, and an ultimately quite idealistic political screed, How to Blow Up a Pipeline seems primed to resonate with viewers who feel not just powerless to change the system, but powerless to even meaningfully change their own consumption patterns to live more ethically. This film won’t change the world, but it’s a romantic and hardly outrageous consideration of what it might mean to really try.”
Hard-wiring the strident intellectual foundations of La Chinoise to the ample heist-picture pleasures of Ocean’s 11, this raised fist of a film has already secured its position as one of 2023’s major releases. That it’s going to play in neighborhood cineplexes feels like a coup unto itself.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline comes to US cinemas on 7 April. A date for the UK is expected to be set for the spring as well.
Published 2 Mar 2023
By Mark Asch
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