How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2023)

Directed by Daniel Goldhaber

A crew of young environmental activists execute a daring mission to sabotage an oil pipeline.

Provoking in more ways than one. And one of the few movies that: (a) was ringing in my head on the way back from the multiplex; and (b) the film qua film may actually be better than the discourse it ultimately generates.

As a piece of cinema, then, How to Blow Up a Pipeline attempts to solve the riddle of articulating a structural political critique using narrative expectations established under postwar liberalism, an ideology that, we must keep in mind, celebrates "the self-possessed individual moulding the world through the strength of their convictions, reasoned debate and wilful actions." But by using a group of protagonists with diverse and conflicting motivations to sabotage a crucial oil pipeline, How to Blow Up a Pipeline avoids the trap of being politically defanged via a critique of any given individual protagonist — the whole "But MLK, Jr. cheated on his wife" kind of pseudo-rebuttal.

On the matter of the 'discourse', recall first that it was not so long ago that high-profile fans of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite (2019) included the likes of Barack Obama and Elon Musk. That a film so ostensibly dedicated to satirising the rich was praised by the very individuals and institutions that had the biggest interest in upholding that same order was perhaps revealing of Parasite's limited political potential. I bring this up only because something tells me we aren't going to see this on Bill Gates or Barack Obama's annual barometers of middlebrow taste, something that the collective that made the film will probably take as a sign of success. (Edgelord that he is, no doubt Musk might sign on to stanning this film, however.)