Production Company: Chrono, Lyrical Media, Spacemaker
Release Date: April 7, 2023
Rating: R for language throughout and some drug use
"At what point do we escalate? When do we conclude that the time has come to also try something different? When do we start physically attacking the things that consume our planet and destroy them with our own hands? Is there a good reason we have waited this long?" Andreas Malm, How to Blow Up a Pipeline
Hey, you. Do you want to be incredibly stressed for 108 minutes? Do you want to feel a mixture of rage, pain, and joy that will make your brain start whistling like a teakettle? Because I have just the movie for you.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a short and punchy manifesto published in 2021 by Andreas Malm. As of April 2023 it is now a movie, in which eight characters put into practice the very ethos that Malm advocates: that the climate movement has been unusually reliant on nonviolent tactics to the point of stagnation, and shies away from alternatives that would be undeniably useful to its cause. Namely, violence and property damage.
Turning a nonfiction manifesto into a genre movie is a fascinating move, artistically speaking. The easier play would be to make a documentary - another frequent approach by the climate movement, and something the movie itself actually lampoons. The movie version of How to Blow Up a Pipeline has an entirely different goal. This is a tightly structured, relentlessly paced heist movie that follows the titular pipeline explosion from its origins, through the planning and execution, and beyond. This is Ocean's Eleven, but instead of stealing money out from under the nose of Andy Garcia, this ragged band of eight is stealing resources, money, and time from Big Oil and the framework of government and law enforcement that protect it. Like any good heist movie, it showcases the team's well-earned competence while also mining rich veins of interpersonal disagreements and minor bomb-building setbacks. Taken together, we get a movie that is nail-bitingly tense, and undeniably effective.
I won’t waste any more words: you should go see this movie. It’s not perfect; depending on where you stand on the leftist spectrum or the climate action spectrum, you might think this movie is doing too much, or not enough (leftist infighting on this point is very funny and summarized nicely here). It’s not solving the climate crisis, but neither does it pretend like it can. To me, these nuances don’t really matter nearly as much as the fact that it’s here. It’s a radical movie that’s getting a pretty wide distribution across the country and confronting the average moviegoer with a fundamental question that it makes impossible to dodge: in the face of a real, genuine climate disaster that hurts more people each passing year, what matters more - property, or human life?
How to Blow Up a Pipeline looks its audience dead in the face, throws some incredibly sick synth riffs in, and asks us to sit with that question, and its consequences. It gazes upon the scope of the climate crisis and, instead of sinking into nihilism, springs into action. This movie says: there is something to be done, and it matters that people choose to do it. It will fill you so full of emotion you might start to feel like you’re about to breathe fire.
Anyway, this movie absolutely rips, and it's showing at The Loft.