"The Brink" Review: The Charismatic Uncle That Needs To Sit Down Somewhere
Steve Bannon is a conservative media and political strategist and the former chief strategist for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Just in case you weren’t aware. If you’re expecting to leave The Brink knowing more about his background and what made him who he is, this isn’t that type of documentary. However, that’s the one thing that makes it intriguing because it doesn’t ask you to pick a side, nor does it build its main character up. It simply gives you a slice of life look at Bannon and let’s you do what you’d like with that information.
An early scene in the documentary shows Bannon talking about how well engineered the German death camp at Birkenau was. (Auschwitz used buildings that were already there while Birkenau was built from scratch.) He describes coming to an epiphany that there was a group of people who got together to plan out how to efficiently erect an infrastructure to kill, dispose and repeat the process with Jews. He says he can see the coffee and strategy conversations that were had. While his admiration is more than a bit haunting, this isn’t a random scene, it’s the set up for the rest of the film and metaphor for his life.
From there we continue to get a fly on the wall look at Bannon’s life shortly after departing from the Trump White House. Director Alison Klayman doesn’t give us a structured storyline outside of following him to the 2018 midterms, and jumps from event to event, hotel room to hotel room, and rally to rally across Europe and America. The sum of many parts allows certain stump speeches, phrases, and interactions to become clear to the viewer. As much as Bannon gives off the cool, charismatic uncle that needs to sit down somewhere vibe, he bathes in his own hype to try to wash his insecurities.
Bannon is given room to be himself and dig himself in a hole with some of the things he says within the film. He even mentions how he’ll be crushed after the doc comes out. He’s self-aware and understands how to use negative press to his advantage. His charm and doggedness to see economic nationalism grow makes it clear why he’s successful with his base. Yet, even while he’s interacting with people and crowds on a weekly basis, there’s a hint of loneliness and isolation in the road he’s chosen. Klayman could have cut it out or not captured it, but you never see a real sense of connection to anyone.
This is the type of film that makes the film festival circuit, does low numbers in the box office and finds a home on some streaming network. That’s where I’d catch it, if you’re one of the folks that would be interested in what goes on behind the scenes of Steve Bannon’s life.