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Does "How to Blow Up a Pipeline" Make a Statement on Making Statements? Yes.
This is not your cousin's story of domestic vandalism.
The worry over man-made environmental disasters is very real in the Gulf South, with oil spills and other consequences of a fossil fuel state having great potential to occur. Thus, a film like How to Blow Up a Pipeline should ring a few bells for those of us who live in the area.
From the director of the superbly crafted Cam (available on Netflix), How to Blow Up a Pipeline has what a viewer would expect from its title: young men and women of similar predicaments and values, taking it upon themselves to make a stand and strike against the oil industry, even if in a small but grand way, using DIY (do it yourself) methods - the kind that can be found easily on the world wide web. I'm using the WWW phrase to bring us all back to a time and place in the 1990s when plots and plans weren't relegated to the "dark web" or left on some unregulated forum. In the case of this movie, the protagonists aren't out for blood, but for manifesto and legend. For living on as a meme, to be retweeted and shared and, hopefully, repeated ad infinite. All to make the oil market destabilize a bit too.
It'd be incorrect to suggest that any of these characters are naive or in over their heads, at least by the time the film completes its cycle of present action and past explanation of individual reasoning. One has developed cancer from living near these plants, one has lost a loved one from climate change, one is losing family land and property, and the others are angry at everything. They each have both minute and articulated motivations, done up in scenes of recruitment to the cause, which is to blow up a pipeline.
Now, I'm not making the film out to be simple-minded whatsoever, just resourceful. Everything develops to their respective crescendos pretty spectacularly and most dramatically, even and especially when understated or small in scale. Personal in scale, really.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline seeks a what rather than a why to manifest such acts at all. The constructive destructors of the film have their reasons, but there too is a dark emptiness they each ultimately must face: should they succeed, what next? What awaits?
This isn't really a call to arms. In fact, that would be awfully reductive and superficial to claim. The movie feels like a statement on making statements, and it’s a daring one at that. Pipeline takes a well-meaning band of righteous youngsters into an intense and thrilling ride of anti-corporate and pro-environment vengeance that results in uneasy answers of maturity and the challenging nature of explosive work with a little payoff - the full amount may not be seen in their time.
Never sanctimonious and never pretentious to the point of pretending to offer a true solution, it’s a ticking timebomb of a film, with people justifying their means that couldn't possibly go any harder if it tried. It unfolds with excellent attention to detail and a perfect understanding of pace and timing while doing justice to the characters and their collective/personal plights first and foremost. A grand feat that frankly humbled and challenged me, not to take part in such actions or to consider all reasons (everyone has one), but to think of the ultimate conclusions of a victory, and how life and time move forward no matter what.
What does it mean to sacrifice yourself for a cause with little effect? What does that detonate inside of you? What if nothing goes off when the button is pressed? Something has to give, right?
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is more than just a pipeline that is subjected to being blown up, it could be one of the more thoughtful movies of this current political climate. There's more to rolling a barrel of fertilizer up and down a dirt road, and sometimes a fuse isn't just a fuse.
Sometimes. And this is one of those times. 5/5
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is now in theatrical release.