The Brink: A portrait of Steve Bannon as a world-class troll

Review: Occasionally in this documentary, the ex-White House adviser lets his mask slip

Trolling stone: Steve Bannon in The Brink

Film Title: The Brink

Director: Alison Klayman

Starring: Steve Bannon, Louis Aliot, Sean Bannon

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 90 min

Fri, Jul 12, 2019, 05:00


If you didn’t view Steve Bannon as a world-class troll before, Alison Klayman’s documentary portrait may just change your mind. Red-faced, soda-swilling, and frequently looking more than a little green around the gills, the former White House adviser certainly looks like an armchair warrior. His health and dietary habits are, in common with many of his unpalatable habits and beliefs, dismissed in well-rehearsed, self-deprecating one-liners. 

Summoning a Kombucha between Red Bulls, he jokes that the stock will probably drop by 50 per cent. 

The Brink takes up with Bannon just after his dismissal from the White House, on the back of a disastrous campaign for Republican Roy Moore and various revelations in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Bannon is fired from Breitbart and loses his financial benefactors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

The Brink clip: Steve Bannon interviewed by the Guardian

Much of what follows is a portrait of a man who is desperately spoofing, desperately trying to stay politically relevant, an effort that requires meeting various far-right goons around Europe in order to “knit together this populist-national movement throughout the world”. 

In an early sequence, he marvels at the scale of industrialised death at Birkenau

Bannon repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the term “globalist” as an anti-Semitic slur, despite protestations from both Klayman and the Guardian’s Paul Lewis, but the dog-whistling doesn’t stop there. In an early sequence, he marvels at the scale of industrialised death at Birkenau. 

He’s unpopular; he makes a joke of it. He talks about his populist movement as he moves between five-star hotels on a private jet; he makes a joke of that, too.

Occasionally, the mask slips. Upon leaving a small, humble American home where a family are told about Europeans who are “just like them”, Bannon’s nephew notes that he wouldn’t live in such a dwelling for a million a year. A female heckler is dismissed as “that” based on her appearance. 

Klayman, who won big at Sundance with her 2013 portrait of Ai Weiwei, Never Sorry, allows Bannon the space to do his everyman shtick, but never succumbs to the Stockholm syndrome that too often kicks in with personality politics. That distance only adds to the chills.