If you take matters into your own hands, is it still justice?
Written and directed by Daniel Goldhaber, How to Blow Up a Pipeline begins with Xochitl (Ariela Barer) slashing the tires of a nearby SUV in order to send a message. Committed to environmental protection, she believes that it is her responsibility to punish those who care little about the planet, especially if the law ignores them. Frustrated and hurt by the damage left by the climate crisis, Xochitl begins to recruit a team of like-minded people who are willing to take matters into their own hands by targeting a West Texas pipeline to garner some justice.
Set amidst the dry heat of Texas, Pipeline is an absolutely gripping thriller about a team of young environmentalists who set out on a mission to save the planet. Brilliantly executed by Goldhaber, Pipelinethrows you into the action from the outside and never lets the viewer go. Following each of its characters with a broken narrative style, Goldhaber keeps the emphasis on the moment while also never forgetting the individual journeys that brought them together. As a result, he is able to reveal the motivations of his characters in ways that actually add to the overall storytelling and augmenting the heist itself. With each reveal, we understand a little bit more about the motivations of his characters and how much it means to them to succeed. Each of these unlikely terrorists comes from diverse backgrounds and have an important role to play within their act of rebellion.
With fire and fury, Goldhaber demonstrates both the personal and environmental urgency of their convictions. With its emphasis on character, Pipeline serves justice by emphasizing the damage done by corporations who care more about their profit margins than the environmental effects on those around them. Cancer diagnoses, poverty and toxic water all cause great suffering to the families that live near the processing plants, driving them into action. Having all been broken by the recklessness of environmental destruction, the emphasis on their stories helps us to empathize with the convictions of each character, giving us the opportunity to support their acts of violence.
However, the real question lies at the heart of the film is where the line exists between freedom fighter and terrorist? Because we view the story through their eyes, the definition of ‘terrorist’ begins to change. To them, the purpose of their work is to protect future generations from injustice, not for personal gain. Their interest lies solely in making the corporate world suffer for their actions without the cost of any human life in the process. In doing so, Goldhaber acknowledges that illegality of their actions yet justifies it as an act of rebellion for the greater good.
After all, as one character muses, weren’t Martin Luther King or Jesus both considered terrorists by their respective governments?
Thrilling from start to finish, the heat that emanates from How to Blow Up a Pipeline is palpable. With a finger on the pulse of justice, Goldhaber manages to take an environmental issue and infuses it with such energy that one can’t help but get on board. Like the very best of thrillers, Pipeline draws you in with its charming characters but, more importantly, makes you care about their mission. Because, no matter how controversial it may be, this operation isn’t just about them.
This is about making a better world for everyone.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is available in theatres on Friday, April 14th, 2023.