November 11, 2023 – This movie, now streaming on Hulu, reminded me of an old environmental extremist friend of mine who used to talk about blowing up freeway interchanges and the like, as well as the movie “Night Moves” (2013) about radical environmentalists who blow up a dam.
Like “Night Moves” this film is partially an eco-terrorist “how to” film, but it also delves deep into the individual motives of those doing the deed. Based on Andreas Malm's 2021 book of the same name, this movie argues against non-violent ways of opposing CO2-emitting activities. Instead, it advocates for guerrilla warfare against fossil fuel companies.
The story shows how some of the characters have good reasons for hating fossil fuel industries. Theo (played by Sasha Lane of “American Honey”) has terminal cancer resulting from exposure to pollutants from an oil refinery. Xochitl (played by Ariela Barer) blames oil refinery pollution and global warming for the death of her mother during a heat wave. Blue collar activist Dwayne (Jake Weary of “It Follows”) lost his home in Texas when his land was seized by eminent domain for an oil pipeline.
While Xochitl (whose name is not pronounced like it is spelled) seems to be the leader of a band of activists intent upon blowing up a pipeline. Dwayne is very familiar with the pipeline's layout since he grew up in an area crossed by the pipeline. He even knows how to shut off the flow of oil so that the explosions won't cause a big oil spill.
Michael (Forrest Goodluck of “The Revenant”) a native American angry over fossil fuel industries activities in his tribal lands, is the bomb expert of the group, building dangerous blasting caps designed to set off the ammonium nitrate-based bombs housed in heavy steel oil barrels.
There are a number of cliffhangers along the way as various things go wrong, including an FBI informant, a broken leg, an activist shot by pipeline workers, and a pipeline drone that seems to be spying on the bomb operation. The cliffhangers are created by abruptly cutting away from the action to backstories of the activists.
Preparations are made at a remote cabin site. Each member of the team has specific tasks to perform leading up to the explosions, and afterward, including getting rid of evidence, shutting off the oil flow, putting the explosives in place, setting them off, and transporting people away from the site.
Rowan (Kristine Froseth of “Prey”) and Logan (Lukas Gage of “Assassination Nation”) a couple of stoner adventurers, are given the task of shutting off the oil flow, which turns out to be much more difficult and dangerous job than expected. Alisha (Jayme Lawson of “Till”) comes along with the activists against her better judgment, only because she is in love with Theo.
Far from being a simple “how to” heist-like movie, there are unexpected twists and surprises in the story, and there is plenty of suspense, too. Some complain this movie makes domestic terrorists into heroes, but that is pretty much the point of both the book and the movie it is based on. It is not a very convincing thesis, and the movie itself is not very believable, either, but at least it makes a thoughtful, honest argument.
This is a solid, well-acted and well-directed movie that is well-paced and it held my interest throughout. Those cliffhanger cuts I mentioned earlier are annoying, but effective. This film rates a B.
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