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Eco-Thriller ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’ Explodes Onto VOD (Review)

The anxiety-riddled eco-thriller, ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline,’ feels frighteningly authentic.

Daniel Goldhaber’s second feature film tells the story of a group of young people who strongly believe that their titular mission will make the world a better place.

Based on a 2021 book from Swedish activist Andreas Malm, it introduces us to eight main characters who have come together for different reasons in pursuit of environmental justice.

You may be familiar with the term ‘social justice warrior,’ but have you ever contemplated its implications in reality? This film acquaints us with characters who believe that eco-terrorism represents the sole means to alter the system, immersing us in their methodologies.

Ariela Barer stars in ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’ (NEON)

The Verdict

The film provides us with the backstory of our eight protagonists through flashbacks, interspersing them with the main narrative to enhance our understanding of the timing and motivations.

Ariela Barer (who also co-wrote and co-produced the film) stars as Xochitl, a young woman from Long Beach who has grown up in the shadow of a giant oil refinery. Xochitl’s interest in activism is heightened after her best friend Theo (Sasha Lane) is diagnosed with leukemia. They recruit Theo’s girlfriend Alisha (Jayme Lawson) along with five strangers (including Lukas Gage from HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’ and Marcus Scribner from ABC’s ‘Black-ish’) to head out to West Texas to complete the action of the film’s title.

The best performance in the cast comes from Forrest Goodluck as Michael, a Native American teenager. He is frustrated by outsiders coming to his North Dakota hometown to work in the refinery. Michael’s specialty is bomb-building. His knowledge (along with a serious disregard for his own wellbeing) comes in especially handy to the team as he gruffly builds incendiary devices.

Goldhaber recruited cinematographer Tehillah De Castro to shoot on Kodak 16mm stock, which provides a documentary-like look. Even though there are few shots that were captured with handheld cameras, it retains the feeling that what we’re watching is vividly real. Film editor Daniel Garber solidifies the story structure with the flashbacks, but also keeps the story propelling forward at an engaging pace.

It has been a long time since a movie made me feel so anxious. I found myself holding my breath during more than one sequence. ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’ will stay with me for a long time and is unquestionably one of my favorite films so far this year.

Our grade: A-

How to Watch ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’

‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’ is now available to buy or rent from all digital providers. The film hits DVD and Blu-ray on July 18. You watch it now in 4K UHD from iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video. NEON’s streaming deal is with Hulu, so it is likely to turn up there later this summer.

Looking for more movie recommendations? Check out our May streaming preview!

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