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Suspense and indignation combine unevenly in unapologetic message movie How to Blow Up a Pipeline, in which fine performances from an eclectic cast are offset by a bland narrative.

The message doesn't necessarily overpower the emotion in How to Blow Up a Pipeline, but the picture - inspired by the non-fiction bestseller - does paint its assertion that big chemical and oil corporations are evil in such broad, one-note strokes that the nuances of both story and characters are lost.

The movie mostly takes places over the course of a few days in which a half-dozen twenty-somethings join forces to attach a bomb to an oil pipeline. Their motifs for this act of terrorism are laid out in flashbacks that intersperse the main narrative.

The script makes the most of this narrative framework by jumping back in time just when the suspense in the main storyline is at its highest, even if the repetitive effect diminishes as the movie goes along. The cast of young indie actors (you'll have seen their faces even if you can't pinpoint their names) also does a good job in fleshing out their roles, giving How to Blow Up a Pipeline a decent emotional core.

Overall the central theme of the film lacks a clear purpose though, which becomes especially apparent in the third act. By mostly relying on well-established tropes - internal conflicts, amourous complications, imminent betrayal - the picture as a whole becomes a bit run-of-the-mill, which ultimately undercuts its rebellious message.

So while How to Blow Up a Pipeline holds your attention for the majority of its 100 minute runtime, I doubt you will be convinced by the film that the good fight of the main characters should get an urgent extension in the real world.

release: 2023

director: Daniel Goldhaber

starring: Ariela Barer, Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, Kristine Froseth


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