Film would be good discussion movie for TY students

An interesting film out last week with a pretty great title 'How To A Blow Up A Pipeline'. The film is based on and takes its name from a book by Andreas Malm, a non fiction manifesto and call to arms on taking the fight to the fossil fuel industry.

It’s a bit like a modern take on The Anarchist Cookbook from the 1970s.The film opens with a group of twenty somethings meeting in an abandoned house in Texas. It unfolds they are building a bomb to destroy an oil pipeline in the area. Throughout the film we see flashbacks what brought the gang together and how they set up alibis to get away with the bombing.

It’s a stylishly made film, the camera is always moving, it’s filmed almost like a documentary in that way. It keeps the tension high and reflects the urgency of their mission. It reminded me a lot of the Safdie Brothers films, Uncut Gems and Good Time. Even down to the synth score by Gavin Brivik.

I didn't love the film however. Where it goes wrong for me is going into all the activists' back stories. One character is suffering from leukaemia due to acid rain, another has his village destroyed by oil rigs, some are just radicalised anti capitalists university students, one is a conservative Christian but opposes a CPO on his land in Texas where a new part of the pipeline is to be built.

I understand the idea behind giving the activists' background, but I just feel a more powerful interpretation would not need to know why they are doing it. The climate emergency is all around us and and we see it every time we turn on the news. I feel the characters are a little cliche-ed, to me they felt broad and uninteresting.

The actors do a lot with what they are given, some scenes feel improvised and work very well, but other times it can feel a little corny. The idea of turning a non fiction book like this into an Oceans 11 meets Euphoria style thriller feels like an idea from older boring studio executives trying to cash in on the TikTok generation’s demand for action around climate change.

I would have like to have seen a version that doesn’t bother with the back stories or the activists sitting around debating. At one point a character declares “Jesus was a terrorist”… cue massive eye roll from me and at the point I was out on the film. I’m not saying I have an issue with showing the activists to be immature or cringe.

If you look at the Extinction Rebellion protests, there is lots of immaturity how they go about making their point. It’s the fact it feels so inauthentic how they discuss their beliefs. It sounds like their talking points were written by AI.On the other hand there is a scene in the film where two of the activists nearly miss part of their plot because they stop to have sex.

Now that felt like an authentic moment. So I wonder what the film trying to do? Is this effective as a call to arms for climate protests like this book is? I think no. Is it a good film? It’s okay, it’s a well made movie with good performances but let down by certain aspects. I can see it being a good discussion movie for a Transition Year class, but it could have been something more.

 

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