Matt at the Movies: The kids aren’t alright in "How to Blow Up a Pipeline"
We highly recommend this provocative film that asks more questions than it answers
The end of awards season has meant praise, reflection, and preparation for a new slate of films in the coming months.
As Spring Break comes to a close, I wanted to watch something that would get my adrenaline pumping. I drove down to the Independent Picture House in search of a remedy for this fix and I couldn’t have selected a better option than the Daniel Goldhaber/Neon Pictures film How to Blow up a Pipeline.
In a Nutshell
This movie is a loose adaptation of the 2021 book of the same name by Andreas Malm. It follows the journey of how several seemingly random Gen Z climate activists come together in West Texas to pull off an act of sabotage against corporations who reap the benefits while being responsible for manmade climate change
Time is money, why should I go?
At a crisp 100 minutes, there is rarely a dull moment as we discover each character's motivations as they move towards the climax. The drama of pulling off this heist-like caper is only enhanced by a great soundtrack reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet score.
By the end, the film also poses questions: action vs. inaction; status quo vs. radical change; terrorism vs. heroism. I experienced flashbacks to January 6th as I considered how far people are willing to go when they truly believe in something. My inner monologue throughout the film was worth the price of admission.
Spill the Tea
While I’m never one to give away too much in a review, the title explains what we are in for. The intrigue lies in how this particular group comes together. There are scene kids, college students, do-gooders, climate activists, Southerners, and reservation families who wouldn’t be caught dead in the same bar let alone working together to disrupt the gasoline production of the United States. As their backstories are unveiled we discover motives, their Ocean’s Eleven-type skill sets, and one of the greatest assets I’ve seen from teaching Gen Z students: the ability to get past differences to accomplish a goal.
All of the characters have been wronged in some way by big oil. The collateral damage has gone too far for them, and after many failed attempts, the most extreme option becomes the avenue for retribution.
There is a lot to unpack here from short sighted economic implications to how the media will label their actions. You start to wonder about how recent attacks on grid systems here in North Carolina or acts of cyberterrorism can bring down such fragile but critical infrastructure to our daily way of life. The characters in Pipeline not only understand this but also accept the fallout in the pursuit of making corporations open their eyes.
Questions remain, however: can they actually bring this plan to fruition, and who will pay the price for it?
Star of the Show
The power of community is the star of this show. Online communities allow people to come together from all walks of life. Unfortunately, instructions for creating instruments of violence, terrorism, and hate are just as prevalent. The group in this Pipeline uses YouTube videos, advanced internet research, and DIY gumption to plan out a precise game plan to sabotage the oil industry.
Don’t Sleep On
Distributor Neon Pictures. Once a leader in indie film, they have seemed to take a backseat to award-winning A24 productions in recent years. Besides their best picture win with Parasite (2019), Neon has made bold choices that demonstrate respect for real auteurs. In the past two years they’ve been behind David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, and last year’s best picture nominee Triangle of Sadness. Don’t sleep on their documentaries, either.
Even when Neon swings and misses, they consistently platform filmmakers with distinct visions that can’t be replicated by Hollywood’s major studios.
Best Ten Minute Stretch
The montage of the team using their online skills to combine household products, simple tech, and ingenuity to create havoc. They are focused, organized, and ruthless in their approach. The internet can be a scary place sometimes.
Coulda Used a Little More …
Time together with the team to have them collectively share some of their experiences. This may have taken away from the sweet spot runtime the director achieved but it also feels good to have some skin in the game and main characters to root for.
Matt at the Movies Score: 8/10
Highly Recommend - 8/10. Playing the next two weeks at the Indie so check it out!
Pieces together the overall “vibe” this movie brings from other releases:
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