Alison Klayman’s The Brink is a must-see documentary following dangerous eminence grise Steve Bannon over the crucial period of the US midterms and the EU elections.
On the Edgeby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Alison Klayman’s documentary The Brink follows Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, in the 13 months after his acrimonious departure from the White House in 2017. It covers a period when Bannon campaigned for a controversial, far-right Republican and schemed to establish a pan-European populist organisation, The Movement.
The film follows him after he left Breitbart in the US and came to UK and travelled around Europe by private jet as he mobilised the far right. We see him meet with notorious media characters such as Nigel Farage and the leaders of the far-right parties in susceptible European countries.
Physically, Bannon seems an unsavoury character – fat, blotchy and dishevelled – yet to his backers and supporters he comes across as disarming and commendably able to pick up irony. But, as Klayman comments, it’s possible to see him as charming and yet not be charmed by him yourself. Like the UK’s Farage, he’s a dangerously skilled and effective communicator.
Bannon says he hated every second he was with Trump at the White House, yet he seems surprised at the hatred that exists for Trump in the outside world. His avowed ambition is to create an international political supergroup to undermine the European Union.
There’s revealing fly-on-the-wall hand-held camerawork that has astonishing access to him plus some archive footage, though the door is always closed to the camera before the fast-talking, highly articulate Bannon says anything too inflammatory. Though particularly shocking is his willingness to talk about his involvement in Boris Johnson’s speech to Parliament when resigning as Foreign Secretary – a weekend of texts advising on the wording back and forth to him.
Overall, it’s a terrifying insight into the dark money and dark forces determining our political future. Visually, the film shows up the hypocrisy of his policies, calmly contrasting his attacks on the elite with his life of freebies on private planes and in five-star hotels. Chillingly, Klayman told the Observer recently, “I was less surprised at the wealth of the people he worked with than at their proximity to the mainstream corporate America and global politics: Hollywood, finance, Silicon Valley, senior Republicans and Democrats were all on the phone.”
The Brink premiered in the UK at Sundance London in June. If only it had been shown on mainstream television here before the European elections. What a missed timely opportunity to see the manipulative Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. Klayman says after seeing her film, Bannon cut off all contact with her, confirming his dislike of the accuracy of her portrayal of him. Despite the delayed timing of its release, The Brink is still a crucial must-see for its insights into the web of contacts behind British politics.
This review was originally published on 7 July 2019.