Here is a fiercely watchable thriller which had me biting my nails down to the wrists. It is inspired partly by Andreas Malm’s radical eco-activist manifesto of the same title and partly – in fact, almost pedantically – by the heist classic Reservoir Dogs. A young crew of protesters, each individually getting a backstory flashback which sometimes jumps into the drama at a cliffhanger moment, come together for the big job, knowing each other as little as Tarantino’s colour-coded bad guys and having similar issues around gunshot wound injury and possible disloyalty. Director and co-screenwriter Daniel Goldhaber applies a fictional imagination to the first two words in the title of Malm’s book, which argues for direct-action property destruction but is not actually a “how to” bomb-making guide like William Powell’s 1971 gonzo classic The Anarchist Cookbook; it is still in print and still assuredly being studied by climate activists. Goldhaber’s drama shows how this kind of paramilitary adventure might actually happen, month by month, moment by moment, as well as the kind of people who would be sufficiently motivated or reckless to risk decades in federal prison. They are all drawn together by a plan to blow up a west Texas oil pipeline, disrupt the flow and drive its price ruinously up. Interestingly, there is no clear leader, no one whose job is to explain to the gang what is going to happen, in scenes which would involve them standing in front of a whiteboard or a table with toy cars around a cardboard model. In so far as someone is in charge, it appears to be Michael, a bomb specialist: although the lightbulb moment of having the idea and finding the exact spot where a bomb could be planted are relatively unimportant and almost invisible. Michael is a young Native American who resents the oil rigs destroying his homeland; Xochitl and Theo are friends affected by big oil’s toxic pollution in their neighbourhood and Theo’s girlfriend Alisha agrees to help. Dwayne is a Texan good ol’ boy and open-carry gun enthusiast who resents the government requisitioning his land, Shawn is disillusioned with the virtue-signalling futility of making documentary films about climate change and Logan and Rowan are seasoned campaigners. A regular heist movie is driven by cynicism and greed, undercut with a crime-doesn’t-pay anxiety; this film is therefore fundamentally unlike Tarantino’s, but it is also unlike say, Gillo Pontecorvo’s the Battle of Algiers from 1966 which shows the insurgents’ revolutionary motivation sympathetically, but without overtly asking the audience to share it. Another comparison might be Fred Zinnemann’s 1973 adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal, which presented us with the hitman’s thrillingly ice-cold professionalism in the service of a cause. Here, the pipeline destroyers are the good guys; an interesting genre twist though one which arguably defangs the film, just a little, removing the addictive flavour of cruelty and chaos, yet not making it any the less gripping and ingenious. How to Blow Up a Pipeline is released on 21 April in UK and Irish cinemas.